Skip to main content

Full text of "The vita nuova of Dante"

See other formats



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 

" Es gilt nur ein Gliick auf der Erde, das Gliick der Liebe, und 
vrer das vers'aumt, alles vers'aumt. " — Fichte. 

" My love involves the love before ; 

My love is vafter paffion now ; 

Though mix'd with God and Nature thou, 
I feem to love thee more and more. 

" Far off thou art, yet ever nigh ; 

I have thee ftill, and I rejoice ; 

I profper, circled by thy voice, 
I (hall not lofe thee, though I die." 

Tennyson, In Memoriatn. 










jELOVED, whofe life is with mine own en- 
In whom, while yet thou wert my dream, I 

Warm with the life of breathing womanhood, 
What Shakefpeare's vifionary eye divined j 
Pure Imogen, high-hearted Rofalind, 

Kindling with funfhine all the dufk greenwood ; 
Or, changing with the poet's changing mood, 
Juliet, and Conftance of the queenly mind ; 
I give this book to thee, whofe daily life 

With that full pulfe of nobleft feeling gloWs, 
Which lent its fpell to thy fo potent art ; 
To thee, whofe every a&, my own true wife, 
The grace ferene and heavenward fpirit mows, 
That rooted Beatrice in Dante's heart. 


i HERE is not in literature a more re- 
markable contribution to the perfonal 
hiftory of a great man than the Vita 
Nuova of Dante. It is a chronicle 
equally minute in analyfis, and admirable in expref- 
fion, of emotions the mofl: profound ; a record of 
real life, to which there is nothing fuperior in 
romance. It traces the matter paflion of the poet's 
life from its dawn through its firft purifying phafes 
of reverence and affliction ; and not only is his 
heart laid bare before us, but we are made, as it 
were, to fee the very procefTes by which his poetical 
genius wrought. Every incident, every emotion, 
out of which his verfes grew, is there, fide by fide 
with the verfes themfelves, — and thus we are en- 
abled to trace the workings of his fhaping fpirit of 


imagination, lifting the real into the ideal, or rather 
pouring its own golden light around a beautiful re- 
ality. Beatrice, with her fweet fmile, her voice rich 
with the mufic of a noble heart, her infinite grace 
which made her fupreme among the graceful, comes 
before us as vividly as Imogen or Defdemona ; and 
with a deeper intereft, for we know that fhe was no 
mere being fhaped out of the poet's brain, but a 
perfect woman, whofe influence refined and ennobled 
the poet's heart, filling it with thofe yearnings after 
that ideal of beauty and goodnefs, which it is the 
peculiar office of woman to infpire : and kindling 
and fuftaining within him that ambition to confecrate 
his genius to her honour, which has linked their 
names in a fplendid immortality. His dream, his 
guiding ftar, while fhe lived, Beatrice became his 
angel, his monitrefs, his afpiration, when dead. Her 
image cheered and fuftained him through exile, and 
poverty, and defolation. Through her he was in- 
cited to rife above the common herd.* She it was 

* " Beatrice, lode di Dio vera, 

Cbe non Joccorre quel, che t' avib tanto, 

Ch 1 ufcib per te della volgare fcbiera.'" 

Inf. ii. 103. 


who opened that perennial fount of lovewhich gufhed 
for ever within his heart, and gave infpiration to his 
pen, fo that he wrote of himfelf: — 

" lo mi fon un, che quando 

Amore fpira, noto, ed a quel modo 

CF ei detta dentro, vo Jignificando" 

Purg. xxiv. 52. 
" A man am I who write, 

When with his kindling breath Love ftirs my foul, 
And, as he prompts, fo I my fongs indite." 

To her he dedicated his inner foul, and to her af- 
cribed all that was moft worthy in its achievements. 
How all this came to be, the Vita Nuova tells us. 
Its very name mows the importance which Dante 
attached to the ftory it contains, and the wormipper 
of his genius will find no fitter clue to his perfonal 
character than it affords. 

There is happily no need, at this time of day, to 
dwell upon the theory of Bifcioni and others, that 
no fuch perfon as Beatrice ever exifted ; that me 

" Oh ! Beatrice, true praife of Deity, 

Wherefore not fuccour him who loved thee fo, 

That from the vulgar throng he pafT'd through thee ? " 


was merely an allegorical phantom of the poet's 
fancy, a fiction as purely ideal as Ariel or Urania. 
That any one, after reading the Vita Nuova, mould 
maintain fuch a propofition would be incredible, if 
any extravagance in commentators could be fo. If 
evertruepaffionfpoke, it fpeaks there; if ever the very 
life-glow of the heart throbbed in fong, it throbs in 
the tendernefs and pathos of its exquifite verfe, and 
fcarcely lefs exquifite profe. This book, unfupported 
by any collateral evidence, would by itfelf fuffke to 
eftablifh beyond a doubt, that Beatrice was not of 
" fuch fluff as dreams are made of," but moulded of 
that noble humanity wherewith Heaven bleffes, not 
unfrequently, our common earth. But we know 
from other fources alfo, that the Beatrice of the 
Vita Nuova and of the Divina Commedia had her 
type in the Bice who played round the knees of old 
Folco Portinari, and fmiled her own gentlenefs and 
purity into the heart of Dante. The Beatrice of 
the Paradifo is the Beatrice whom men turned round 
and crowded to gaze at, as fhe glided paft them on 
the ftreets of Florence, — the Beatrice who for that 
mortal has put on immortality, and is now tranf- 
figured into a femblance glorified indeed, yet fcarcely 


more pure and faintly than that which me wore on 

Why mould we be flow to acknowledge that the 
poet actually faw andjdid not greatly exaggerate the 
fpiritual beauty of this fair Tufcan girl ? We all 
feel the force of the picture, and moft of us refer it 
to fome one whom our eyes have feen, when we read 
in Wordfworth of — 

" The perfect woman, nobly plann'd 

To warn, to comfort, and command, 

And yet a fpirit Hill, and bright 

With fomething of an angel light." ^ 

The fame recognition of fpiritual beauty, the fame 
reverent faith in womanhood, which produced thefe 
lines, infpired the heart and pen of Dante, when he 
penned the early fonnets of the Vita Nuova, with a 
trembling hope that the young Bice's eyes might 
reft upon them in no unloving mood, and afterwards, 
when her fpirit hovered over him, as with a more 
exalted fervour he chanted the infpired ftrains of 
his great poem. 

Of this beautiful love-ftory we know, unhap- 
pily, only too little. Many of the circumftances 
connected with it are wrapped in an obfcurity which 


we long in vain to penetrate. Boccaccio, writing 
fome fifty years after Dante's death, tells us little 
beyond what Dante himfelf indicates in the Vita 
Nuova. cc It was the cuftom," he writes, in his 
garrulous way, ff in our city for both men and 
women, when the pleafant time of fpring came 
round, to form focial gatherings in their own quarters 
of the city, for the purpofes of merry-making. In 
this way Folco Portinari, a citizen of mark, had 
amongft others collected his neighbours at his houfe 
upon the firft of May, for paftime and rejoicing. 
Among thefe was the afore-named Alighieri, and 
with him, — it being common for little children to 
accompany their parents, efpecially at merry- 
makings, — came our Dante, then fcarce nine years 
old, who, with the other children of his own age 
that were in the houfe, engaged in the fports appro- 
priate to their years. Among thefe others was a 
little daughter of the aforefaid Folco, called Bice, 
about eight years old, very winning, graceful, and 
attractive in her ways, in afpect beautiful, and with 
an earneftnefs and gravity in her fpeech beyond her 
years. This child turned her gaze from time to 
time upon Dante with fo much tendernefs as filled 


the boy brimful with delight, and he took her image 
fo deeply into his mind, that no fubfequent pleafure 
could ever afterwards extinguifh or expel it. Not 
to dwell more upon thefe paffages of childhood, 
fuffice it to fay, that this love — not only continuing, 
but increafing day by day, — having no other or greater 
defire or confolation than to look upon her— became 
to him, in his more advanced age, the frequent and 
woful caufe of the moft burning fighs, and of many 
bitter tears, as he has mown in a portion of his Vita 

The incidents recorded in the Vita Nuova are few 
and meagre. They may be fummed up in a fentence 
or two. Dante, a boy of nine, meets Beatrice, a 
girl of eight, very much as Boccaccio mentions. He 
falls in love with her then at once and for ever. 
They do not meet, fo as to interchange greetings, 
until nine years afterwards, although Dante, in the 
interval, feized every opportunity of feeing and watch- 
ing the growing girl. This fecond meeting, and 
the words which fell from her on the occafion, con- 
firm his paflion, which finds its natural vent in 
poetry. No direct intimation of his love is, how- 
ever, made by the poet to Beatrice ; and, in order to 


miflead the curious, who faw from his appearance 
and demeanour that the fever fit of love was upon 
him, he reforted to the device, then not an uncom- 
mon one, of feigning to be the admirer par amours 
of two other ladies in fucceffion. 

Beatrice, however, he gives us to underftand, had 
reafon to know the true ftate of the cafe ; but he 
diffembles only too well, for his attentions to one of 
the ladies for whom he feigned affection becomes a 
topic of fcandal. Beatrice, incenfed, refufes him her 
falutation, or, in other words, declines further ac- 
quaintance with him. The poet is in defpair. Her 
indignation kfts apparently for a confiderable time, 
and during this period, it may with great probability 
be inferred, fhe married, — although Dante is filent 
throughout on this fubject. How a reconciliation 
takes place we are not told ; but we are left to infer 
that they were reconciled, from the circumftance, 
incidentally noticed, of Dante's being fubfequently 
a vifitor at her father's houfe, and on terms of the 
clofeft intimacy with her brother at the time of her 
death, and alfo from the more ferene tenor of the 
poems of which fhe is the fubjecl:. Her father's 
death, (December, 12.89), an event which feems to 


have plunged her into the deepeft grief, affords an 
opportunity to Dante for expreffing a fympathy 
which appears to have been not unwelcome to her. 
Her own death follows (October 9th, 1290) foon 
afterwards, and Dante is beginning, after a time, to 
recover from the fhock of this bereavement, when 
the intereft in his grief mown by fome Florentine 
lady wins upon. him infenfibly, till, finding himfelf 
fafcinated by her influence, he refolves to difcard her 
from his thoughts, and never more to fwerve from 
his allegiance to Beatrice, the one fole miftrefs of his 
heart. This is a portion of his ftory fo painfully 
true to the weaknefs of human nature, and fo unlike 
what any man, not of the nobleft order, would 
chronicle of himfelf, that it alone would be fufficient 
to mark the Vita Nuova as a record of facts. After 
this, the poet records that there appeared to him a 
wonderful virion, which, there can be no doubt, was 
that which afterwards took fhape in the Divina 
Commedia, in which he " faw things that made him 
determine to write no more of this dear faint, until 
he mould be able to write of her more worthily ; 
and, of a furety," he adds, cc me knows that I ftudy 
to attain unto this with all my powers. So, if it 


mail pleafe Him, by Whom all things live, tofpare 
my life for fome years longer, I hope to fay that of 
her, which never yet hath been faid of any lady ; 
and then may it pleafe Him, Who is the Father of 
all good, to fuffer my foul to fee the glory of its 
miftrefs, that is, of this fainted Beatrice, who now, 
abiding in glory, looketh upon the face of Him, 
qui eft per omnia J<ecula benediffus." 

Writing as he did, not to give the ftory of this 
part of his career in detail, but merely to indicate 
the origin and development of the matter feeling of 
his life, Dante had no occafion to record particulars as 
to which we now moft naturally defire fome expla- 
nation. Why, for example, having met, in the 
firft inftance, as they did, and being near neigh- 
bours,* did no communication of any kind pafs be- 

* " The Alighieri and the Portinari lived not more than fifty 
yards apart ; the latter having their apartments where is now the 
Palazzo Ricciardi, formerly that of the Dukes Salviati, in the 
flreet of the Corfo, near the Canto de' Pazzi, and the former 
living on the Piazza di S. Martino, juft at the corner of the ftreet 
leading to St. Margaret's church ; and their apartments at the 
back looked upon the Piazza de' Donati, otherwife called della 
Rena." — Note by Fraticelli, Opere Minore di Dante. Edit. 
1857, vol. ii. p. 6. 


tween Dante and Beatrice for the next nine years ? 
Was it that in thefe ftormy times fome fudden alien- 
ation between their parents had kept them apart ? 
But for the exiftence of fome fuch reafon it is 
fcarcely credible that Dante mould not, in fo long 
an interval, have found an opportunity of directly 
declaring his attachment. For it is hard to ima- 
gine him as a mere love-fick dreamer, pining, like 
Viola, with an untold paffion. All we know of 
him forbids this conclufion. In pofition, education, 
and appearance, he was " a man worth any woman." 
Giotto's portrait of him, at the age of thirty, which 
was difcovered in the Bargello of Florence in 1840, 
enables us to picture for ourfelves the youthful 
Dante as Beatrice muft have feen him. The face 
is full of intellect: and manly beauty, but with the 
fenfitive, felf-enwrapt, and abitracted air, which 
tells of a conftant unreft and ftruggle after more 
than is to be found amid the limitations of earthly 
life ; a face in which tendernefs and rigour are 
ftrangely blended, the mirror of a nature at once 
Angularly fympathetic and Angularly felf-centred. 
But that face, before the records had been ftamped 
upon it of his grief for the lofs of Beatrice, muft 


have been eminently engaging. Intellect, feeling, 
character, were all there, and, more than all thefe, 
the fuggeftion that behind it was fomething c< that 
never can be wholly known," which always has been, 
and always will be, efpecially attractive to the other 
fex. Dante's accomplifhments, moreover, were great 
and various. <c The courtier's, fcholar's, foldier's 
eye, pen, fword," were all his. He had fpirit, cou- 
rage, and the love of action, which enabled him 
to hold his ground among his compeers, and to 
hold it with diftinction. With all thefe qualities 
and circumftances in his favour, and no pofitive 
diflike on the part of the lady to counteract them, 
(for this much, at leaft, is certain,) it feems ftrange 
that his love mould not have found its iflue in 
marriage ; for Dante's love, in its origin and early 
ftages, was manifeftly no mere Platonifm. It was 
the united devotion of heart, foul, and fenfes con- 
centrated on one object, and ambitious of obtaining it 
for their own. It is impoflible to read his poems of 
this period without coming to this conclufion. Trem- 
blingly and reverently, no doubt, he loved Beatrice 
from firfl to laft, as a noble nature always will love 
the woman who is worthy of its regard. But he 


loved her as a man loves, and with the pafllon that 
naturally perfeveres to the porTeffion of its miftrefs. 
Why his love was unfuccefsful is a myftery on 
which Dante himfelf throws no light, and as to 
which no fatisfactory explanation has hitherto been 
fuggefted. A ftraitened fortune on his fide has moft 
commonly been fuppofed to have been the caufe. 
Yet this conjecture is not fatisfactory, for Dante 
married, not many years after Beatrice's death, a 
lady in all refpects her equal in rank and fortune. 
Can it have been, that, in that interval of nine years 
already referred to, when Dante had no opportu- 
nity of perfonal intercourfe with Beatrice, or during 
the fubfequent period of her difpleafure with him, 
her hand had been, perhaps lightly, or to pleafe 
her parents, pledged to MefTer Simone dei Bardi, 
in ignorance of the deep and noble paffion which 
fhe had infpired in the young poet's heart ? This, 
however, is the mereft conjecture, for even the date 
of Beatrice's marriage is unknown, our only infor- 
mation that me was married being derived from the 
incidental mention of the fact in her father's will,* 

* Item Domina Bid filia fute et uxori Domini Simonis de 
Bardis reliquit libr. 50 ad jioren. 


dated the fifteenth of January, 1287, at which date 
fhe was twenty-one years old. That fhe knew of 
Dante's love is certain ; for Dante expreflly indi- 
cates this in the Vita Nuova.* But did fhe know 
of it before her marriage ? And did fhe, either then 
or afterwards, give it her countenance and approval, 
or return it in any, and in what degree ? Thefe 
are queftions which naturally fuggeft themfelves ; 
but the materials for a reply are moft fcanty and un- 
fatisfacTory. That Beatrice was, at an early period, 
not indifferent to Dante may, we think, be fairly 
argued from the circumftance mentioned in the 
Vita Nuova, (p. 13, infra,) that fhe was fo indig- 
nant at his having, however innocently, compro- 
mifed the name of one of the ladies to whom he 
feigned attachment as a fcreen to his love for her- 
felf, that fhe pafled him for a time without notice. 
Would fhe have felt fo ftrongly, had Dante been 
to her no more than any other Florentine gallant ? 
We think not ; and are inclined to hold that Bea- 
trice believed for the time that, in the dangerous 
game he was playing, Dante's afTumed love had 

* " Wherefore, although of a truth thy fecret is through long 
ufage in fome meafure known to her." — Vita Nuova, p. 15, infra. 


become a real paffion, and that fhe refented his 
apoftacy accordingly. How long the estrangement 
lafted to which this incident gave rife does not 
appear. The Vita Nuova gives no clue ; and the 
next event in the progrefs of his love-ftory, which 
it records, is his being unexpectedly thrown into the 
fociety of Beatrice at a marriage party, where he was 
fo overcome with emotion as to provoke the merri- 
ment of the ladies prefent, in which Beatrice, to his 
infinite difcomfiture, joined. By this time, it is 
certain, fhe was married, as only married women 
were, by the cuftom of Florence, prefent at meet- 
ings of this defcription ; and it feems not unreafon- 
able to conclude, from Dante's extreme fufFering 
and difcompofure on the occafion, that this was 
their firft meeting after her marriage. Unquestion- 
ably it ftartles and jars us to find Beatrice taking 
part with her friends in their raillery of Dante. But 
there may have been caufes for this, — the neceffity, 
for example, of not feeming to encourage or fympa- 
thize with her lover, — which it is impoffible to efti- 
mate, but for which, in juftice to her, allowance 
muft be made, even as we fee that Dante made it. 
His faith in her tr courtefy and gentle heart " was 


in no degree fhaken by it. His appeal to her in 
the fonnet, which he wrote upon the occafion, (p. 22, 
infra,) is full of pathos, and could not fail to move 
Beatrice deeply. How, indeed, could a woman, 
fuch as he portrays her, have been infenfible to the 
profound tendernefs and paffion, penetrating through 
the moft reverent devotion, which diftinguifhes this 
and thofe other fonnets of the Vita Nuova, which 
clearly were written, not merely for the relief of the 
poet's heart, but for his miftrefs to fee ? Sooner or 
later, before Beatrice died, we cannot doubt, that 
there came a day when words pafled between them 
which helped to reconcile Dante to the doom that 
fevered her from his fide during her all too brief 
fojourn on earth, — when the pent-up heart of the 
poet fwept down the barriers within which it had fo 
long ftruggled, and he 

" Caught up the whole of love, and utter'd it, 
Then bade adieu for ever," 

if not to her, yet to all thofe words which it was no 
longer meet mould be fpoken to another's wife. 

Thenceforth the mind of Dante became more 
calm, and he could write fuch fonnets as the " Amove 
e cor gentil Jono una cofa? (p. 33, infra,) and the 


" Negli occhi porta la mia donna amor e" (p. 34, infra,) 
which feem to fpring from the depths of a foul from 
which the turmoil and tumult of paffion and difap- 
pointment have, in a great meafure, parTed away. 

It is plain, that, at the time thefe fonnets were 
written, Dante ftood on a footing of intimate friend- 
ship with Beatrice's family. His love for her could 
have been no fecret to them. Indeed, after the in- 
cident at the marriage party, already alluded to, it 
mufh have been well known through the whole cir- 
cle of his friends. Her hufband, Mefler Simone 
dei Bardi, himfelf muft have known it, for what was 
no fecret to Dante's friends could have been no fe- 
cret to him. It is not even difficult to fuppofe that 
he entertained Dante as a friend. Jealoufy in fuch 
a cafe was out of the queflion. The love of Dante 
was of an order too pure and noble to occafion dif- 
truft, even if the purity of Beatrice had not placed 
her above fufpicion. It is true that we have no 
direct information on this point ; but we fee that, 
when old Folco Portinari died, Dante was one of 
the intimate friends who paid the cuftomary vifit of 
condolence to the family {Vita Nuova, p. 35, infra); 
and when, foon afterwards, Beatrice herfelf died, 


Dante fpeaks of her brother as one £C who, accord- 
ing to the degrees of friendfhip, was his friend next 
in order after his firft" (p. 59, infra). Is there not, 
too, an indication peculiarly touching of the feeling 
with which this brother regarded Dante's devotion 
to his fifter, in the requeft that he would write 
fomething for him <c on a lady who had died fome 
time before," when he rauft have known well that 
there was only one fuch theme on which Dante could 
write, but that, in the proftration of his grief, the 
execution of fuch a tafk might bring fome meafure 
of healing to the poet in his defolation ? 

But how did Beatrice requite all this devotion, 
the deepeft and tenderer!: of which any written re- 
cord remains ? As to this, Dante gives no direct 
indication. If we are to read fome of his minor 
poems, not included in the Vita Nuova, but written 
obvioufly during the period to which it refers, and 
which will be found tranflated in the notes at the 
end of this volume, Dante feems to have thought 
that me had given, upon occafion, fome encourage- 
ment to his paffion. But paflion is notorioufly prone 
to felf-deception on fuch points. He is a modeft 
lover, indeed, who has not at times, Malvolio-like, 


converted the mod innocent looks and geftures into 
tokens of favour. Even fo may Dante have de- 
ceived himfelf ; and certainly there is no intimation 
in the Vita Nuova, which, being written fome time 
after Beatrice's death, when cc grief was calm and hope 
was dead," might be looked to as containing the truth 
of the matter, that Beatrice at any time returned his 
affection. At the fame time, it is contrary to human 
nature that a love unfed by any tokens of favour 
mould retain all its original force ; and, without 
wrong either to Beatrice or Dante, we may con- 
clude that an understanding was come to between 
them, which in fome meafure foothed his heart, if it 
did not fatisfy it, by leading him to believe that he 
held no unhonoured niche in " that temple, her fair 
mind." This inference is ftrengthened by the rela- 
tion to the poet which me occupies in the Divina 
Commedia, as exprefTed more particularly in certain 
paflages of the Purgatorio, which we fhall here- 
after have occafion to cite, where they appear to be 
bound together by an affection which was not wholly 
without recognition, ere Beatrice 

" had gone to yonder heaven, 
To realms where angels are and dwell in peace." 


On whatever footing they flood towards each other, 
we may at leaft be fure of this, that their intercourfe 
was pure, and frank, and noble. Beatrice's hufband, 
probably, and certainly her brother, were alive when 
the Vita Nuova was written and published; and had 
the footing on which the poet flood with the lady 
not been clear and unquestionable, he could not have 
fpoken fo freely and fervently of his devotion as he 
has there done. 

Here, too, it mould be remembered that Dante 
loved Beatrice from her girlhood. His paffion was 
not kindled, like Petrarch's, by another's wife. 
There was no barrier to its growth in either duty or 
honour. It had become the pervading principle of 
his life, when he beheld her configned to the bofom 
of another. What room is there for cenfure here ? 
We keep no terms with fuch loves as thofe of 
Petrarch. All other confederations apart, they are 
unmanly — as what can be more unmanly than to 
furround a woman with attentions, and befiege her 
with addrefTes, which, if they do not endanger vir- 
tue, may leave behind them wounds which a lifetime 
will fcarcely fuffice to heal ? Let all fuch pafTions be 
left to the ridicule of women, and the fcorn of men. 


They are not love in the fenfe in which alone it 
mould be known in the Christian world. Such love 
is wife, thoughtful, felf-facrificing, pure. It 

" hath its feat 
In reafon, and is judicious.'' 

It nurfes no unlawful aims, no impoflible defires ; 
it palters not with the claims of others, neither does 
it equivocate with right and wrong. Its effential 
condition is propriety and fitnefs. It fcorns to plead 
the fplendour of its fancies in mitigation of the 
aberrations of its judgment, to excufe its imperti- 
nence by its poetry, or to fubftitute a fonnet for an 
infraction of the decalogue. Far different from fuch 
felfim wilfulnefs was Dante's love. " In yielding to 
its fway," fo he writes in the Vita Nuova, " I car- 
ried with me the full fanction of reafon, in all thofe 
matters wherein it is of importance to liften to his 
counfel." When Beatrice married, Dante could not 
fubdue his love — he could not make it as though it 
had never been. For many a day its fhadowmuft often 
have crofled him much too fadly for his peace. Nor 
was it neceflary that he mould forget a thing fo noble. 
But he did what was better, yet what only a great 


and manly nature could have done, — he triumphed 
over the pain. He uttered no complaint — his regrets 
were buried within his own heart. But the faith, 
the afpirations with which fhe had infpired him were 
ftill his. Of thefe MefTer Simone dei Bardi could 
not deprive him. With thefe he dwelt, to thefe he 
clung, in thefe he found his folace. The real was 
transformed into the ideal, defire was elevated into 
idolatry. Anon came Death, a mightier lord, and 
took her from his eyes ; but her fpirit left its radiance 
with him, and fpoke to him through all his tempeft- 
fhaken foul in every beautiful, and good, and noble 

There are not wanting critics who regard the re- 
lation of Dante to Beatrice in a very different light. 
Thus, for example, Leigh Hunt, in the ff Eflay on 
the Life and Genius of Dante," in his very pleafant 
" Tales from the Italian Poets," treats this topic with 
a levity and want of fympathy which, in one ufually 
fo generous, is the more remarkable. Mr. Hunt 
takes credit to himfelf for ftating what he calls <c the 
probable truth of the matter," thus : — 

" The natural tendencies of a poetical temperament 
(oftener evinced in a like manner than the world 


in general fuppofe) not only made the boy poet fall 
in love, but, in the truly Elyfian ftate of the heart 
at that innocent and adoring time of life, made him 
fancy he had difcovered a goddefs in the object of 
his love ; and Strength of purpofe, as well as of 
imagination, made him grow up in the fancy. He 
difclofed himfelf, as time advanced, only by his 
manner ; received complacent recognitions in com- 
pany from the young lady ; offended her by feeming 
to devote himfelf to another ; rendered himfelf the 
fport of her and her young friends, by his adoring 
timidity — fee the fifth and fixth fonnets in the Vita 
Nuova, — in Short, constituted her a paragon of per- 
fection, and enabled her, by fo doing, to mow that 
me was none. 

ff Now, it is to be admitted that a young lady, 
if me is not very wife, may laugh at her lover with 
her companions, and yet return his love, after her 
fafhion ; but the fair Portinari laughs and marries 
another. Some lefs melancholy face, fome more in- 
telligible courtfhip triumphed over the questionable 
flattery of the poet's gratuitous worShip, and the 
idol of Dante Alighieri became the wife of MefTer 
Simone dei Bardi. It tranfpired from a claufe in her 


father's will ; and yet fo bent are the biographers on 
leaving a romantic doubt in one's mind, whether 
Beatrice may not have returned his paffion, that not 
only do all of them (fo far as I have obferved) agree 
in taking no notice of thefe fonnets, but the author 
of the treatife entitled c Dante and the Catholic 
Philofophy of the Thirteenth Century,' f in fpite,' 
as a critic fays, c of the Beatrice, his daughter, wife 
of MeJJer Simone dei Bardi, of the paternal will,' 
defcribes her as f dying in all the luftre of virginity.' 
The aflumption appears to be thus glorioufly ftated, 
as a counterpart to the notoriety of its untruth. It 
muft be acknowledged that Dante himfelf gave the 
cue to it by more than filence; for he not only vaunts 
her acquaintance in the next world, but aflumes that 
fhe returns his love in that region, as if no fuch per- 
fon as her hufband could have exifted, or as if he 
himfelf had not been married alfo." 

This is fmart writing ; but it neither ftates the 
queftion fairly, nor fhows an intelligent appreciation 
of the paffion with which it pretends to deal. Why 
mould Dante be made refponfible for the abfurdities 
of his biographers and commentators ? What they 
may have faid refpecling Beatrice, or her death in 


the f c eclatejje de la virginite" is befide the queftion. 
Dante did not mention her marriage ; but the reafon 
of this very plainly is that he had no occafion to do 
fo. In compofing the Vita Nuova he was chroni- 
cling the origin and permanent progreffion of his 
love — " fervida e pajjionata" — up to the time of her 
death, juft as fubfequently he portrayed it in its 
calmer and more manly afpect, — " temperata e 
virile" — in his Convito, and as later ftill he mowed 
it, fublimated into fpirituality, in his Divina Corn- 
media. The mention of her marriage would have 
been out of place in a purely pfychological treatife 
like this. The agonies which that event brought 
with it were between himfelf and heaven. That 
they rauft have been fearful might be divined, even 
without the well-known record of his having fallen 
ill upon the occafion. But Dante was neither a 
Petrarch nor a RoufTeau, to lay bare fuch wounds as 
thefe ; and moreover, it was not of thefe, which were 
evanefcent, and of the hour, that he had it in view to 
write, but of the fpiritual influence of his attachment, 
which was permanent and immortal. It was, there- 
fore, as we conceive, neither coxcombry, nor a wifh 
to miflead, that dictated Dante's filence on this 


point. The beauty of this love-ftory needs no ad- 
ventitious aids, whether of invention or concealment. 
In Dante's hands it is fimple, earneft, and truthful ; 
nor will true criticifm either feek in it what it does not 
profefs to give, or make it anfwerable for the delin- 
quencies of foolifh commentators. 

We do not know where Mr. Hunt found his 
warrant for faying that the boy poet fancied he had 
difcovered a goddefs in the object of his love* 
There never, perhaps, was fo much devotion with 
fo little rhapfody as in the love-poetry of Dante. 
Myftical and obfcure he often is. The modes of 
thought in which he had been trained made him fo ; 
but he worfhips no phantoms. His Beatrice is 
pure flefh and blood — beautiful, yet fubftantial — a 

" Not too bright and good 
For human nature's daily food." 

In fact there is, perhaps, no love-poetry in the 
world which deals lefs in the attributes of celeftial 
charms than the love-fonnets of Dante. He does 
not leave the earth to feek for images of beauty to 
exprefs her perfections. He could fee in his dreams 
nothing more beautiful than the gentlenefs and 


harmony of foul that infpired her (mile, and gave 
grace to her motions. As evidence of this, one 
has only to point to the fonnet (p. 34) — 

" Love hath his throne within my lady's eyes." 

Or that (p. 50, infra) beginning — 

" So kind, fo full of gentle courtefy ;" 

which, in the original, is considered to be, for beauty 
of thought, structure, and expreffion, the fineft 
fonnet in the Italian language. 

But, indeed, innumerable inftances might be 
accumulated to confute Mr. Hunt's fneer, and to 
mow that Dante's praifes of his miftrefs refted on 
her gentlenefs, her looks that fC whate'er they light 
on feem to blefs," her incomparable fmile, her dignity 
of foul, her grace of motion, her nobility of intellect 
— all of them good earthly graces, — and not on 
imaginary celeftialities or impoflible beauties. 

Again, as to the circumftance of Beatrice joining 
with her friends in the fmile at the love-ftricken 
poet's difcompofure, Dante might well afford the 
bard of Rimini his joke, if he could find one in an 
incident fo finely told as this is by the poet. Let 
us look at the facts. Dante had been taken by a 


friend to a wedding party, and unexpectedly finding 
Beatrice there, a fudden faintnefs came over him, 
which compelled him to lean againfr. the wall for 
fupport. This naturally formed a theme for fport 
to the joyous circle of the funny-hearted dames of 
Florence, who at fuch a feafon were, no doubt, 
more than ufually mirthful, and in this Beatrice 
joined, or affected to join, for the latter is more 
probably the real ftate of the cafe. Dante was fo 
overcome with emotion that he withdrew, and, if our 
theory be correct that this was the firft time he met 
Beatrice after her marriage, we can conjecture how 
terrible the emotion muft have been, which fo over- 
came a man accuftomed, like him, to the exercife 
of great felf-command. 

Dante was quite as much alive as Mr. Hunt 
himfelf to the ridiculous appearance occafioned by 
his emotion ; but he could no more make off 
the thraldom than a limed bird can efcape from the 
fatal bough. He might proteft, rebel, nay, even 
forfwear all vaffalage to his miftrefs. Full foon, 
however, the bondfman returns to his allegiance. 
' c So foon, " he continues, " as I picture to myfelf 
her marvellous beauty, a defire to behold it ftraight- 


way takes poffeffion of me, and its potency is fuch 
that it flays and utterly deftroys in my remembrance 
whatever might rife in oppofition to it ; and there- 
fore all that I have fufFered in the paft cannot re- 
ftrain me from feeking to obtain a fight of her once 
more" (p. 23, infra) ; and then his feelings find a vent 
in the fonnet beginning — 

" All angry murmurs die within my breaft ;" 

which, in its mingled ftrength and pathos, reveals 
glimpfes of the power that diftinguifhes his later 

Dante wreftled long and ftrenuoufly with his 
paffion. Except in the fonnets of Shakefpeare, no- 
where do we find a record of fuch a conflict. For 
the traces of this we rauft look beyond the Vita 
Nuova to fuch of his fonnets and canzoni as we 
poffefs. Thus we find him in one crying out in 
his agony : — 

" Curft be the labour of my love's fond dreams, 
The burning thoughts, inwoven in many a lay, 
Which I have clothed in fancy's brighteft gleams, 
To make thee famous through all after time ! 

And, oh ! accurft my ftubborn memory, 

That clings to that which flays me hour by hour, 


Thy lovely form, whence Love full oft is found 
Launching his perjuries with malicious power, 
Till all men make a mock of him and me, 
That think of fortune's wheel to Hay the giddy round." 

And in another, after painting in a few brief words- 
the impreffive beauty of his miftrefs's eyes, he con- 
tinues : — 

fi ' Here will I come no more,' I fay, but make 

All my refolved vows, alas ! in vain. 
Still do I turn where 1 am il 111 fubdued, 

Giving new courage to my fearful eyes, 

That whilom fhrank before a blaze fo great. 
I fee her, and they fink, together glued, 

And the defire that led my footfteps dies ; 

Then, Love, do thou take order for my ftate." 

Againft feelings fo earneft as thefe the ridicule of 
no man worthy to become a critic of Dante will ever 
be dire&ed. 

But Mr. Hunt is not fevere upon Dante only. 
He extends his farcafm to Beatrice, and with pe- 
culiar bitternefs. " By constituting her a paragon 
of perfection, Dante," he fays, " enabled her to 
mow that fhe was none. . . . The fair Portinari 
laughs and marries another." This is a very curt 
and fimple way of difpofing of the matter. Yet 


furely the fair Portinari may both have fmiled and 
married another, yet in her heart have revered 
Dante's worth, and given him a place there, not 
inconfiftent with her bridal vow, and not without 
its folace to the poet in his bereavement. Has the 
life that lies around us no ftories to tell of a love fo 
fhut out from its defire, of hearts fo comforted by 
the benign influence of thofe whom they never 
may pofTefs ? How poor muft be the imagination, 
how (hallow the nature in which this (lory raifes no 
other images but thofe of a moonifh youth and a 
wayward girl ! 

One other remark of Mr. Hunt's calls for obfer- 
vation. " Not only," he fays, cc does Dante vaunt 
the acquaintance of Beatrice in the next world, but 
he aflumes that fhe returns his love in that region, 
as if no fuch perfon as her hufband could have exifted, 
or as if he himfelf had not been married alfo." 
Pafling without comment the mifplaced levity with 
which the remark is made, let us fee whether the 
fact be as Mr. Hunt ftates. We are unable to find 
one word in the Divina Commedia which affumes 
that Beatrice returns Dante's love in heaven. It 
would, indeed, have been inconfiftent with the 


character of the poet's love, as well as with the con- 
ception of the poem, had he done fo. While yet 
me brightened the earth for him, Beatrice was as a 
ftar, to whom he looked up with unutterable yearn- 
ings, yet almoft without the hope of reaching it — 
a ftar fo glorious that he might fcarcely fix a lading 
gaze upon its radiance — " ove non puote alcun 
mirarla fifo." In the Divina Commedia me is raifed 
ftill higher above him. Her words to him there 
are the words of rebuke — the rebuke of love, indeed, 
but of a love fo pure and holy, that it were no lefs 
than profanity to fpeak of it in the terms employed 
by Mr. Hunt. Dante had fallen from the allegiance 
to the ideal of purity and perfection with which me 
had infpired him. He was a man of ffcrong paffions, 
and not even the light of her pure eyes could charm 
him from the paths of folly and the feductions of 
fenfe. In this wife, therefore, fhe accofts him, re- 
minding him of the days when his heart was kept 
pure by his dreams of her, and by the high imagi- 
nations of his youth : — 

" In his new-life this man was fuch, that he 
Might in himfelf have wondroufly difplay'd 
All noble virtues in fupreme degree. 


But all the kindlier ftrength is in the foil, 
So do ill germs and lack of culture breed 
More noxious growth and ranker wildernefs. 
I for fome term fuftain'd him by my looks ; 
To him unveiling my young eyes, I led 
His fteps with mine along the path of right. 
Yet foon as I the threfhold gain'd of this 
My fecond age, and laid life's vefture down, 
He turn'd from me, and gave himfelf to others. 
When I from carnal had to fpirit rifen, 
And beauty and virtue in me grew divine, 
I was lefs dear to him, and lefs efteem'd ; 
And into devious paths he turn'd his fteps, 
Purfuing ftill falfe images of good, 
That make no promife perfect to the hope. 
Nor aught avail'd it, I for him befought 
High infpirations, with the which in dreams, 
And otherwife, I ftrove to lead him back ; 
So little warm'd his bofom to my call. 
To fuch vile depths he fell, that all device 
Had fail'd for his falvation, fave to fhow 
The children of perdition to his eyes." 

Purg. xxx. 115. 

Is there one word here to juftify the aflertion of 
Mr. Hunt ? — one word inconfiftent with the pureft 
refpect to her who had been the wedded wife of 
another, on the one hand, or with Dante's regard 
for the mother of his children, on the other ? 


Every line that falls from Beatrice is of the fame 
character. The moft important pafTage occurs in 
the canto of the Purgatorio immediately fucceeding 
that from which we have juft quoted. In it Dante, 
with a grace which is remarkable, mingles the wo- 
man's pride in the fuperiority of her own perfonal 
charms with her rebuke for his having ftooped to 
lower feelings than his firft noble afpirations towards 
herfelf. But the nature muft be grofs indeed that 
cannot fee the difference between this and the decla- 
ration of an earthly attachment : — 

" Nature or art ne'er fhow'd thee aught fo Tweet, 
As the fair limbs that girdled me around, 
But now are fcatter'd duft aneath men's feet. 

And if the chiefeft fweet by death were found 
To fail thee fo, what thing about thy heart 
Of mortal mould fhould, after that, have wound ? 

Behoved thee, when firft ftricken by the dart 
Of frail and fleeting things, aloft to fpring 
To me, o'er fuch uplifted high apart. 

It not befeem'd that thou fhouldft ftoop thy wing 
To a flight girl, or other tranfient, vain, 
Delightfome toy, that muft thy bofom fting. 

The fnare may twice or thrice the fledgling chain, 
But the full-feather'd bird avoids the bolt, 
Nor fowler's net can lure him to his bane !" 

Purg. xxxi. 49. 


By fome commentators Dante is affumed to refer 
in thefe lines to his wife, Gemma Donati. Why 
will thefe bufy fpeculators not allow to the poet the 
common virtues of a man ? Dante was a true- 
hearted gentleman, and could never have fpoken 
flightingly of her on whofe breaft he had found 
comfort amid many a forrow, and who had borne 
to him a numerous progeny — the laft a Beatrice. 
No. The obvious allufion is here the true one. 
Dante, with his flrong and ardent paffions, had, 
like meaner men, to fight the perennial conflict be- 
tween flem and fpirit. Shall we marvel, if he fell, 
and not rather praife the noble franknefs of felf- 
rebuke, which dragged his fhortcomings into view, 
and flamped them with immortal reprobation ? 

It is only thofe who have obferved little of human 
nature or of their own hearts, who will think that 
Dante's marriage with Gemma Donati argues againft 
the depth or fincerity of his firfl love. Why mould 
he not have fought the folace and the fupport of a 
generous woman's nature, who, knowing all the truth, 
was yet content with fuch affection as he was able 
to bring to a fecond love ? Nor was that neceffa- 
rily fmall. Ardent and affectionate as his nature 


was, the fympathies of fuch a woman muft have 
elicited from him a fatisfactory refponfe ; while, at 
the fame time, without prejudice to the wife's claim 
on his regard, he might entertain his heavenward 
dream of the departed Beatrice. Is not this the na- 
tural courfe of a ftrong and healthful nature, recon- 
ciling itfelf to the inevitable — not wafting itfelf in 
vain lamentations, but feeking comfort in thofe hu- 
man fympathies which are never without their balm 
where rightly fought ? How much better this, 
than the querulous folitude into which Petrarch 
rufhed, to feed upon the morbid vanities of his own 
heart ! And how does the efTential difference be- 
tween the love of the two men mow itfelf in the 
refults ? In Petrarch, the unnatural fire, fanned by 
the wings of his imagination, droops and ultimately 
expires, and, in his old age, he blufhes for the love- 
laden verfes of his youth.* In Dante, on the con- 
trary, the flame heightens and expands, mining on- 
wards unto the end with a brighter and broader 

* Ilia vulgaria juvenilium laborum meorum cantica, quorum hodie 
pudet et pcenitet, Jed eodem morbo nffettis, ut videmus, acceptijjima. 
— De Reb. Fam. Epift. Lib. viii. Epili 3. One of many palTages 
which might be cited from his works to the fame effect. 


light ; and the concluding paean of his mighty voice 
founds to the glory of her to whom he tuned the 
raufic of his earlier! fong. 

We have been at fome pains to mow the unfair - 
nefs of Mr. Hunt's treatment of this fubjecl:, — firft, 
becaufe he exprefTes the opinion of a large clafs of 
critics, and next, becaufe the very breadth of fym- 
pathy for which he receives credit — and juftly — is 
apt to fecure a general affent to his opinions on a 
matter of this kind. Here, however — as, indeed, 
in all queftions that concern the man Dante — Mr. 
Hunt's ufual fairnefs forfook him. For Ariofto 
and TafTo he can find extenuations and generous 
conftruclions in all doubtful circumftances ; but in 
Dante's cafe the worft conftruction feems to be al- 
ways hailed as the beft. Thofe who have ftudied 
Dante know how unjuft is Mr. Hunt's eftimate of 
his perfonal characler. Let thofe who have not, 
read for themfelves, and not allow their faith to be 
fhaken in the noble heart and purpofe of the man, 
whofe genius as a poet is unqueftioned and fupreme. 

Moft love-poetry dwells largely upon the perfo- 
nal graces of its themes, and revels in the minute 
painting of their various charms. Laura's fine eyes, 


her beautiful hand, her angelic mouth — " la bella 
bocca angelica" recur perpetually in Petrarch. 
The fancy of Ariofto is evermore ftraying among 
the golden locks that undulate luxuriantly over the 
moulders of his miftrefs.* Taflb paints for us the 
exquifite mouth of his Leonora in colours finer than 
Titian's : — 

" A crimfon fhell, where pearls of fnowy fheen, 
Do grow its finooth and curved lips atween." 

* In the following fonnet, which glances incidentally at this 
beauty, Ariofto comes nearer than ufual to the excellence of the 
great matters of this form of poem : — 

" S>uando primo i crin d , oro e la dolcezza." 

" When firft thefe golden trefles met my view, 
Thefe fweeteft eyes, the rofes fragrant-warm 
Of thy red lips, and every other charm 
That me hath made idolatrous of you, 

Lady, oh then, methought, the lovelinefs 

Thou took'ft from heaven was fuch, that never more 
Might rarer beauty come thefe eyes before ; 
For furely none could more fupremely blefs. 

But, lince, thy mind hath pour'd on mine its light, 
Serene and clear, and in my breaft it well 
Might hold o'er all charms elfe triumphant place. 

Which is molt dear, I may not judge aright ; 
But this I know, that never yet did dwell 
A foul fo fair in form of fo much grace." 


There is little of this kind of painting in Dante. 
In fpeaking of Beatrice's beauty, he dwells little 
on any particular physical characteriftics. 

All that we can gather of thefe is, that her hair 
was light and her complexion pale, or rather per- 
haps that exquifite tint, betokening rare delicacy of 
organization, fuggefted in the words of Coleridge 
— " Her face, oh, call it fair, not pale!" — Dante 
depicts Beatrice by the impreflion fhe produced.* 
We fee the beauty of her foul in her face and 
deportment. Her fmile, the dolce rifo, had in it a 
peculiar fafcination. When me appears to Dante in 
the Purgatorio this fainted fmile draws him to her 
with its olden mefhes : — 

" Lo fan to rifo 
A Je traeli con Pantica rete." — Purg. xxxii. 

And in the Paradifo (Canto xxx.) he fays, like 

* This is always the bell ipecies of portrait-painting. Take, 
for example, the exclamation which burfls from Othello amidft 
the throes of his jealous rage. " Oh ! the world hath not a fweeter 
creature. She might lie by an emperor's fide, and command him 
talks." How much more vivid is the image conveyed of Defde- 
mona's mental and perfonal graces by thefe words than by any 
of the numerous more circumftantial indications in other parts of 
the play ! 


the feeble fight that is dazzled by the fun, fo is his 
fpirit difpofleffed of itfelf at the remembrance of that 
fweeteft fmile. The thoughtful fweetnefs of this 
fmile is, indeed, the characteriftic moil ftrongly 
affociated with the idea of Beatrice. 

But neither in his great work, nor in any of the 
unqueftionably authentic poems, is any one feature 
mentioned from which an artifl: could derive a fug- 
geftion, unlefs it be the pearly tincture of her fkin. 
If, however, we may adopt as genuine the canzone 
which is generally known as " The Portrait", then 
we have perhaps the raoft complete picture of female 
beauty that ever was painted in words. Fraticelli 
rejects the poem as doubtful, and his chief reafon 
for doing fo is what he thinks its diffimilarity to 
Dante's generally concife ftyle. This argument, 
however, is by no means conclufive. Dante, while 
he fays more in fewer words than any writer, drew 
clofely and minutely after nature ; and he may very 
reafonably, we think, be fuppofed to have fketched 
the beauties of his miftrefs after this fafhion ; which, 
although detailed, can fcarcely be called diffufe. 

" I gaze upon thofe amber trefles, where 
Hath Love a golden mefh to fhare me made, 


Sprinkled with flowers, or with a tangled braid 
Of pearls,* and feel that I am all undone ; 
And, chief, I gaze into thofe eyes fo fair, 
That fhoot through mine into my heart with light 
So keen, fo radiant, fo divinely bright, 
It feems as though it iflued from the fun. 
Still higher doth their maftery o'er me run ; 
And thus, when I their charms fo glorious fee, 
I murmur to myfelf with many a figh, — 
Ah me ! why am not I 
Alone with her, where I could wifh to be? 
So might I then with thofe fair treffes play, 
Difpart, and lay them wave by wave away, 
And of her eyes, that with a luftre fhine 
Radiant beyond compare, two mirrors make to mine ! 
Next on the fair, love-fpeaking mouth I gaze, 
The fpacious forehead, radiant with truth, 
White fingers, even nofe, and eyebrow fmooth 
And brown, as though it had been pencill'd clear. 
So gazing, I exclaim in fweet amaze, — 
' Behold what ftores of witchery abide 
Within that lip fo pure, and vermeil-dyed, 
Where every fweetnefs and delight appear ! 
Oh, when fhe fpeaks, to all her words give ear, 
Feeling how foft, how gracious is their flow, 

* " Her long, loofe, yellow locks, like golden wire, 
Sprinkled with pearl, and pearling flowers atween, 
Do like a golden mantle her attire." 

Spenser's Epithalamia. 


That doth the ear with choiceft phrafe beguile ! 

And oh, her fmile 

Outvies in fweetnefs all things elfe I know !' 

Thus on that mouth it joys me ilill to paufe, 

Of it difcourfing evermore, becaufe 

I would give all, that I on earth poffefs, 

To win from that dear mouth one unreluftant Yes ! 

Then next I view her white and well-turn'd throat, 
Blending into her moulders and her breaft, 
Her full, round chin, with dimple fmall imprefs'd, 
More fair than limner's pencil might defign ; 
And inly fay, as I thefe beauties note, 
' That neck, oh, were it not a rare delight, 
To hold it in the arms enfolded tight, 
And plant upon that throat a little fign ! 
Give fancy wings!' Thus runs this thought of mine, 
' If what thou feeft be fo furpaffing fair, 
What muft thofe beauties be, are hid from fight? 
'Tis by the fun and other creflets bright, 
That with their glories gem heaven's azure air, 
We think its deeps enfold our paradife. 
So, if with fixed eyes 

Thou gazeft, then full furely muft thou deem, 
Where thou canft fee not lies all earthly blifs fupreme. 

Her round and queenlike arms I next furvey, 

Her fmooth, foft hand, fnow-white ; then deeply eye 

Her fingers long, and tapering daintily, 

Proud of the ring which one of them doth fold — 

' Now wert thou laid,' thus to myfelf I fay, 

' Within thefe arms, a blifs fo rare would ltir 


Through all thy life, divided fo with her, 

Might ne'er a tithe of it by me be told !' 

How pi&ure-like her every limb, behold ! 

There majefty with beauty holds her feat, 

Divinely tinftured with a pearl-like hue; 

Gentle and fweet to view, 

With looks for fcorn, where fcornfulnefs were meet ; 

Meek, unpretending, felf-controlled, and ftill 

With fenfe inftinftive fhrinking from all ill, 

Such grace celeflial breathes her Heps around, 

All hearts before her bow in reverence profound. 
Comely as Juno's bird her going is, 

Self-poifed, erecl:, and {lately as a crane ; 

One charm peculiarly my heart hath ta'en — 

A perfect elegance in a£l and air. 

And wouldft thou truly know how far in this 

She doth her place o'er other maids maintain, 

Look on her as fhe moves amidft a train 

Of ladies that be elegant and fair; — 

And as the ftars, that gem the morning air, 

Fade out before the fun's advancing blaze, 

So fades each beauty when fhe fhows her face. 

Think then what is her fafcinating grace, 

That equal worth and beauty fo difplays ; 

And both in her are perfect and fupreme. 

To her can nothing dear or worthy feem 

Save honour, courtefy, and gentle heart : 

But in her welfare only fet thy hopes apart ! 
My fong, thou mayeft fearlefsly declare, 

Since beauty firft upon this mortal round 



Reveal'd her gracious light, there was not found 

So fair, unparagon'd a creature yet : 

For blent in her are met 

A perfeft body and a mind as fair, 

Save that fome grains of pity wanting are." 

Thofe who are for refining Dante's love into pure 
fpirituality will not willingly accept for his this 
beautiful, but moft fubftantial, portraiture of his 
miftrefs. That he does not, in general, write in this 
ftrain is no fufficient argument, however, againft the 
poem being his. The moods of a lover's mind are 
many and various, and in fome hour of higher hope or 
more elated fpirits Dante may have written of his mif- 
refs in language wherein there is lefs of that profound 
reverence, and none of that haunting fadnefs which per- 
vades nearly all the poems of which fhe is the theme. 

A tender melancholy is unqueftionably the pre- 
vailing character of his love-poetry. From the firft, 
his paffion feems to have been overfhadowed by a 
dim fenfe of misfortune. It was not merely the fad- 
nefs which lies at the bottom of all deep emotion, 
but an almoft prophetic foreboding of difappoint- 
ment and early death. When a chance gleam of 
joy ftruck acrofs his heart, we find him doubting 
his claim to the fearful happinefs : — 


" Deb / per qual dignitate 

Coji leggiadro quejii lo cor have ! " 

" Alas ! for what rare worth has he 

A heart that beats fo light within his breaft !" 

" His love," as Mazzini has faid with equal truth 
and beauty, <c is not the pagan love, the joyful, 
thoughtlefs, fenfual love of Tibullus or Anacreon : it 
is mournful, troubled by the inexpreflible fentiment 
of incompletenefs. At the age when men breathe 
nothing but hope and pleafure, almoft the firft dream 
of Dante is death — the death of his miftrefs. Nor 
is it the love of chivalry. Chivalry, owing to that 
characteriftic inftinct of equality, which in Italy mif- 
trufted its origin and its feudal tendencies, never took 
root there ; art and poetry were the national chival- 
ry. It was not the love of Petrarch — love made 
divine in its expreflion, but almoft vulgarized by its 
unquiet, querulous aim, agitated during the life of 
Laura, and accepted as a fort of inevitable misfortune 
after her death. The love of Dante is calm, refigned 
fubmimon ; death fanctifies it inftead of converting 
it into remorfe. Neither is it the fort of love which 
characterizes an age of tranfition, and which has been 
fo well defined as f Fegoifme a deux perfonneSy a 


jealous and convulfive paffion, made up of felf-love 
and that thirft for perfonal well-being which narrows 
the fphere of our activity, and caufes us to forget 
our duties towards our country and towards man- 
kind. No — the love of Dante deftroys nothing, it 
fertilizes all — it gives a giant-like force to the fen- 
timent of duty — it expands the foul to the ends of the 
whole earth — c Whenever and wherever me appear- 
ed to me, I no longer felt that I had an enemy in the 
world — fuch a flame of charity was kindled in my 
heart, cauflng me to forgive every one who had of- 
fended me' {Vita Nuova). The power of contin- 
uing to go onwards towards perfection and purifi- 
cation, which fhone into him from Beatrice, is the 
conftant theme of his poems — it is the love fuch as 
Schiller has conceived in his Don Carlos, — fuch as 
the future will underftand. When Beatrice was 
married, he fell ferioufly ill ; when a fhort time 
afterwards me died, his life was feared for. But he 
felt that the death of Beatrice impofed frefh duties 
upon him, and that what he had now to do was to 
render himfelf more and more worthy of her — he re- 
folved within himfelf to keep the love for her to the 
laft day of his life, and to beftow upon her an im- 


mortality upon earth. He kept his vows. His 
union with Gemma Donati, in fpite of the aflertions 
of thofe who believe it was unhappy, appears to have 
been calm and cold, rather the accomplifhment of a 
focial duty, than the refult of an in-elidible impulfe 
of the heart. His fhort fancies for Gentucca and 
Madonna Pietra parTed over his foul like clouds — 
above them is the ferene heaven, and in this heaven 
the image of Beatrice remains immovable and mining 
like the fun of his inner life. He gave her name 
to one of his daughters, whom Boccaccio faw, a nun 
at Ravenna. He infpired himfelf by her memory, 
not only in the magnificent pages which he confe- 
crated to her towards the clofe of his life in his poem, 
but in his worfhip for woman, which pervades it from 
one end to the other. In his love for the beautiful, 
in his drivings after inward purity, Beatrice was the 
mufe of his underftanding, the angel of his foul, the 
confoling fpirit which fuftained him in exile, in po- 
verty, under a cheerlefs, wandering, denuded exift- 
ence, if ever there was one." — {Dante Alighieri, 
Foreign Quarterly Review, vol. xxxii. No. 6$.) 

The interpretation of the words Vita Nuova has 
been a matter of controverfy, fome tranilating it 


" The Early Life," and others adopting the natural, 
and, as we think, obvioufly correct interpretation, 
" The New Life." Dante points as diftinctly as 
poffible to this conftruction in the opening fentences 
of the book: — 

" In that part of the book of my memory, anterior whereto 
there is little that can be read, ftands a rubric, which fays, Inctpit 
Vita Nuova; under which rubric I find the words infcribed 
which I propofe to incorporate in this little book, — their fub- 
ftance, at leaft, if not all the words themfelves." 

And then he goes on to relate the circum fiances 
attending his firfl: meeting with Beatrice. What can 
be plainer than this ? The poet's life had been but 
a blank — or, at beft, the ufual mingled chaos of a boy's 
life — up to this period. He beheld Beatrice, and 

" His foul fprang up aftonifh'd, fprang full-ftatured in an hour." 

Then for him a new life began. The ambition 
of greatnefs, the intenfe love of the ideal, the ftruggle 
after perfection, took pofTeflion of his foul. There 
is nothing {trained or unnatural in this conftruction. 
Nay, in the Purgatorio he puts the very phrafe, 
with this interpretation of it, into the mouth of 
Beatrice herfelf : — 


" Quejiifu tal nella fua Vita Nuova 
Virtualmente, cb' ogni abito defiro 
Fatto avrebbe in lui mirabil prova" 

Canto xxx. 

If there were any room to doubt that the poet here 
refers to that period of his life when he was directly 
under the influence of the vifible graces of Beatrice, 
to the new life, in fhort, which he lived, between 
his firft meeting with her and her death, it would 
be removed by the lines which follow thofe we have 
juft quoted, and which have been already cited (p. xl, 

The period of the Vita Nuova, when he was ani- 
mated by all noble impulfes, paffed, then, with her life. 
But, moreover, Beatrice died when Dante was not 
more than twenty-fix, — an age which furely can never 
be held as the culminating point of early life. Indeed, 
Dante has himfelf furnifhed us with his own opinion, 
as to what constitutes " early life ; " for in his Convito, 
Tratt. iv. cap. 24, he exprefsly records it as his es- 
timate that from twenty-five to forty -five is the youth 
and vigour of a man's life, the previous ftages being 
childhood and adolefcence. If, again, we look to 
other poets to aid us in interpreting Dante, we fhall 
find no difficulty in mowing how common is the 


feeling which fuggefted the title in difpute. One 
inftance from Schiller will fuffice : — 

" His prefent — his alone — 
Is this New Life which lives in me. He hath 
A right to his own creature. What was I, 
Ere his fair love infufed a foul into me ? " 

Wallenftein, Part i. Aft ii. fc. 7. 

It is a woman who fpeaks here — Thekla proclaim- 
ing with the grateful generofity of love, that to Max 
Piccolomini fhe owed whatever was high and good 
within her of knowledge, and impulfe, and emotion. 
But the fex is of no confequence to our pofition. 
The feeling is as univerfal as love itfelf. 

The talk of transferring this little book into 
Englifh. is one of no ordinary difficulty. Dante has 
himfelf faid, and faid truly, " That nothing which 
has been brought into perfect concord by the bonds 
of rhythm can be tranfmuted from its own tongue 
into another, without breaking up all its harmony 
and fweetnefs." cc E pero Jappia ciafcuno, che nulla 
cofa per legame mujaico armonizzata fi puo della Jua 
loquela in altra tranfmutare Jenza romper e tutta Jua 
dolcezza e armonia" — ( Convito, Tratt. i. cap. 7 .) But 
if this be true of poetry, it is fcarcely lefs true of 


fine profe, — fuch profe as Dante wrote. <c There 
are pages of the Vita Nuova," fays Mazzini, " thofe, 
for example, in which is related the dream of the 
death of Beatrice, the profe of which is a rinifhed 
model of language and ftyle far beyond the beft pages 
of Boccaccio." To preferve the feeling, and rhythm, 
and noble fimplicity of thefe might well tafk the 
greateft maftery of the refources of our language. 
And when it is remembered, that, in any fuch attempt, 
the Englifh of our own day can be of little avail, 
and that the tranflator muft fall back upon the 
Englifh of the early part of the feventeenth century, 
much allowance will be made for the fhortcomings 
of the prefent verfion. 

The tranflations of the Poems of the Vita Nuova 
here reprinted appeared in an effay, by the tranfla- 
tor, on Dante and Beatrice^ published in cc Tait's Ma- 
gazine" in 1845. He had hoped that fome abler 
hand would long fince have clothed the entire work 
in an Englifh drefs ; but no other translation having 
appeared, the prefent has been completed, in the 
belief that it would not be unwelcome to thofe ftu- 
dents of Dante who might be deterred by the diffi- 
culty and frequent obfcurity of the original, from 


becoming familiar with it. Another verfion, form- 
ing part of a volume of tranflations from the poets 
who preceded or were contemporary with Dante, from 
the hand, powerful both with pen and pencil, of 
Mr. Dante Roffetti, is announced while thefe meets 
are pamng through the prefs. In the notes to the 
prefent volume have been included tranflations of 
all Dante's authentic minor poems of the fame period, 
— thefe being not only of the higheft value in them- 
felves, but alfo for the light which they reflect upon 
the Vita Nuova. 

The portrait of Dante by Giotto, which faces the 
title-page, has been carefully copied from a private 
plate after a drawing by Mr. Kirkup, taken at the 
time when the frefco of the Bargello was difcovered. 
The eye was found to have been injured. This 
was foon after reftored, but unfuccefs fully. A faith- 
ful tranfcript of Giotto's genuine work will, it has 
been thought, be more valued, and more appropriate 
to a volume like the prefent, than one into which a 
reftoration, however dexterous, has been interpolated. 

31, Onflow Square, 

November 25, 1861. 


N that part of the book of my memory, 
anterior whereto is little that can be read, 
ftands a rubric, which fays : — "Incipit Vita 
Nova. Here beginneth the New Life." 
Under which rubric I find the words 
infcribed which I propofe to incorporate in this little 
book — their fubftance, at leaft, if not all the words them- 

Nine times, fince my birth, had the Heaven of light 
returned, as it were, to the fame point in its orbit, when 
to my eyes was firft revealed the glorious miftrefs of my 
foul, who by many was called Beatrice, and to them was 
known only by that name. She was then of fuch an age, 
that during her life the ftarry heavens had advanced to- 
wards the Eaft the twelfth part of a degree ; fo that me ap- 
peared to me about the beginning of her, and I beheld her 
about the clofe of my, ninth year. Her apparel was ofamoft 
noble tincture, a fubdued and becoming crimfon, and Ihe 
wore a cincture and ornaments befitting her childifh years. 
At that moment (I fpeak it in all truth) the fpirit of life, 


which abides in the moft fecret chamber of the heart, 
began to tremble with a violence that mowed horribly in 
the minuteft pulfations of my frame, and tremuloufly it 
fpoke thefe words : — li Ecce deus fortior me, qui venlens domi- 
nabitur mihi ! Behold a god ftronger than I, who cometh to 
triumph over me !" And ftraightway the animal fpiritwhich 
abides in the upper chamber, whither all the fpirits of the 
fenfes carry their perceptions, began to marvel greatly, and 
addrefling itfelf efpecially to the fpirits of vifion, it fpoke 
thefe words : — "rfpparuit jam beatitudo ve/ira. Now hath 
your blifs appeared." And ftraightway the natural fpirit, 
which abides in that part whereto our nourifhment is 
miniftered, began to wail and doloroufly fpoke thefe words : — 
" Heu mifer ! quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps ! Ah 
wretched me, for henceforth fhall I be oftentimes ob- 
ftru&ed ! " From that time forth I fay that Love held fove- 
reign empire over my foul, which had fo readily been be- 
trothed unto him, and through the influence lent to him by 
my imagination he at once aflumed fuch imperious fway 
and mafterdom over me, that I could not choofe but do his 
pleafure in all things. Oftentimes he enjoined me to ob- 
tain a fight of this young angel ; wherefore did I during my 
boyifh years frequently go in queft of her, and I beheld in her 
a demeanour fo praifeworthy and fo noble, that of her might 
with truth be fpoken that faying of the poet Homer : — 

" From heaven fhe had her birth, and not from mortal clay." 

And albeit her image, which was evermore prefent with 
me, placed me altogether under the dominion of Love, 


yet was its influence of fuch noble fort that at no time 
did it fuffer me to be ruled by Love, fave with the faithful 
fandtion of reafon in all thofe matters wherein it is of im- 
portance to liften to her counfel. Were I to dwell upon 
all the paflions and actions of this period of my youth, 
they would appear like fables. On thefe, therefore, I 
fhall not paufe, but pafiing over many matters, which 
might be extracted from the fame record as thofe above 
noted, I proceed to thofe words which are written in my 
memory in characters more confpicuous. 

When fo many days had patted away, after the vifion 
of that moft noble lady above recorded, as made up the 
exa£t meafure of nine years, on the laft of thefe days it 
came to pafs that fhe was once more revealed to me, 
arrayed in the pureft white, between two noble ladies, 
older than herfelf ; and, as fhe pafled along the ftreet, fhe 
turned her eyes towards the fpot where I, thrilled through 
and through with awe, was {landing ; and, in her ineffable 
courtefy, which now hath its guerdon in everlafting life, 
fhe faluted me in fuch gracious wife that I feemed in 
that moment to behold the utmoft bounds of blifs. The 
hour at which her moft fweet falutation reached me was 
exactly the ninth_of_thal. day ; and forafmuch as this 
was the firft time her words had reached my ears, I was 
fmitten with fuch delight that I broke away from the 
company I was in like a drunken man. And, having re- 
tired within the folitude of my chamber, I fate me down to 
meditate upon that moft courteous lady ; and, as I mufed, 
a fweet fleep came over me, wherein a marvellous vifion 


was prefented to my eyes. Methought I faw within my 
chamber a flame-coloured cloud, in the midft whereof I 
difcerned the figure of a man, of an afpecl: terrible to 
behold ; yet, ftrange to tell, he feemed within himfelf to 
wear an air of exceeding joyfulnefs ; and he faid many 
things, of which I underftood only a few, and amongft 
them this : — " Ego dominus tuus. I am thy Lord." And lo, 
in his arms I faw the form as of one afleep, and naked, faving 
that it was lightly fhrouded in a crimfon fcarf ; and looking 
upon it long and intently, I recognized it to be the lady 
of my health, who had previoufly deigned to falute me on 
that felfsame day ! And in one of his hands, methought, 
he who bore her held fomething which was all on fire, 
and turning to me he faid, — " Vide cor tuum ! Behold thy 
heart!" And after a fpace, methought, he awakened her 
who flept, and with much perfuafion he conftrained her 
to eat the thing that was burning in his hand, the which 
fhe did reluctantly and in fear. This done, his joy 
ftraightway refolved itfelf into the moft bitter lamentation; 
and fo, all in tears, he gathered up this lady once more 
into his arms, and with her, as I thought, afcended towards 
heaven ; whereupon my angui,fh became fo great that 
my fitful number was broken, and I awoke. And incon- 
tinently I began to reflect, and found that the hour in 
which this vifion had appeared to me was the fourth of the 
night ; whereby it manifeftly appears that it was the firft of 
the nine laft hours of the night. Mufing upon what I had 
feen, I refolved to make it known to the many famous 
poets of the time ; and, as I had aforetime proved myfelf 


to pofTefs the art of compofing in rhyme, I determined to 
write a fonnet, in which, faluting all who were under fealty 
to Love, and entreating them to pronounce judgment 
upon my vifion, I mould relate that which I had beheld 
in my deep ; and forthwith I began this fonnet : — 

To every captive foul and gentle heart, 

Into whofe fight fhall come this fong of mine, 

That they to me its matter may divine, 

Be greeting in Love's name, our mailer's, fent ! 

A fourth part of the hours was nearly fpent, 

When all the ftars of heaven moft brightly (nine, 
When Love came fuddenly before mine eyne, 
Remembering whom with horror makes me ftart. 

Joyful he feem'd, and bore within his hand 

My heart ; while in his arms, and calmly fleeping, 
My lady, folded in a mantle, lay. 

He woke her, and {he ate by his command 

The burning heart, as though (he fear'd her prey ; 
And then Love went his way, dejeft and weeping. 

This fonnet divides itfelf into two farts. In the firjl I 
fend greeting and crave refponfe ; in the fecond I indicate 
unto what refponfe is to be made. The fecond part commences 
with the words, — " A fourth part." 

To this fonnet I received replies from many, and of 
various import, and among thofe who anfwered was he 
whom I call the foremoft of my friends, who on this 
occafion wrote a fonnet beginning, " Vedejii al mio parere 
ogni valor v." And this may be faid to have been the be- 
ginning of his friendfhip, when he learned that it was I 
who had fent him the foregoing lines. The true inter- 


pretation of my dream was not then perceived by any one, 
but now it is manifeft to the moft fimple. 

From the time of this vifion my natural fpirit began to 
be obftru£ted in its working, forafmuch as my foul was 
wholly given up to thinking of that moft gentle being ; 
whereby I fell ere long into a ftate of health fo delicate and 
feeble that my appearance caufed much concern to many 
of my friends ; and many, filled with a vain curiofity, were 
eager to learn from me that which above all things I wifhed 
to conceal from every one. And I, being well advifed of 
the vile motive of their queftionings, did by the prompting 
of Love, who counfelled me in accordance with the dic- 
tates of reafon, reply to them, that it was Love who had 
fubdued me fo. I faid, Love, feeing that I bore in my looks 
fo many of his marks, that the facl: could not be concealed. 
And when they afked me, " For whom are you fo love 
fhaken?" I looked at them and fmiled, and anfwered 
them not again. One day it chanced that this moft gentle 
being was feated in a certain place, liftening to difcourfe 
concerning the Queen of Glory, and I was ftationed where 
I could behold my blifs ; and in a ftraight line between her 
and myfelf fat a noble lady of a very pleafant afpecl:, who 
turned her eyes repeatedly upon me, wondering at my 
earneft gaze, which feemed to reft upon herfelf. This 
gave occafion to many to take notice of her glances at me ; 
and fo much were they imprefled thereby, that as I was 
leaving the place I heard fome that were near me fay, " See, 
what havoc fuch and fuch a lady is working on his looks !" 
And from her name I knew that they fpoke of her who 


had been feated .midway in the ftraight line, which began 
with that moft fweet Beatrice and ended in my eyes. 
Thereupon I was greatly comforted in the affurance that 
my fecret had not that day been communicated to others 
by my gaze. Then fuddenly it occurred to me to make of 
this noble lady a fcreen for the truth, and I foon managed 
matters fo that moft of thofe who concerned themfelves 
about me believed they knew my fecret. By means of this 
lady I kept my own counfel fome months and years ; and, 
to confirm the general belief, I compofed certain trifles 
about her in rhyme, which it is not my intention to record 
here, except in fo far as they bear on what I have to fay of 
that moft gentle Beatrice ; and therefore I will omit them 
altogether, with the exception of one which feems to be 
directed to that lady's praife. I fay, then, that during the 
time when this lady was the fcreen of a love which on 
my fide was fo intenfe, a wifh arofe within me to record 
the name of that moft gentle Beatrice, and to aflbciate it 
with the names of many other ladies, and in efpecial with 
the name of that noble lady to whom I have alluded ; fo, 
taking the names of fixty of the moft beautiful ladies of 
that city, wherein the lady of my heart had been placed by 
the Moft High, I compofed an epiftle in the form of a 
ferventefe^ which I fhall not tranfcribe here ; indeed, I 
fhould not have made mention of it, except for the purpofe 
of recording what befel in marvellous wife in the com- 
pofing thereof; namely, that in no other fucceffion than 
nine would the name of my lady ftand among the names 
of the ladies in queftion. 


The lady, by whofe means I had fo long concealed my 
inclination, had occafion to leave the aforefaid city, and 
to go to a diftant part of the country, whereupon I was 
thrown into a ftate of difmay at the lofs of my beautiful 
defence. I was more difconcerted at this circumftance 
than I could beforehand have believed ; and thinking, if I 
did not fpeak of her departure with fome regret, my fecret 
would be more apt to be difcovered, I determined to 
compofe a fonnet on the occafion, which I fhall tranfcribe, 
becaufe the lady of my heart was the immediate caufe 
of certain expreffions that occur in it, as thofe who com- 
prehend it will readily fee. This fonnet was as follows : — 

Oh, ye who in Love's paths wayfarers be, 

Attend and fee, 

If there be any forrow like to mine. 

Unto my tale, I pray, your ear incline, 

Then fay, if I not be 

Of every grief the garner and the key ! 

Love, not for any (lender worth of mine, 

But in the bounty of his noble heart, 

Me with a life fo calm and fweet had blefs'd, 

That ofttime to mine ear a voice would ftart, 

" For what rare worth hath he 

A heart that fits fo lightly in his bread ?" 

Now gone is utterly the fearlefs mind, 

Rich in Love's pricelefs gain ; 

And I fo poor remain, 

That courage fcarce to fpeak of it I find ! 

And thus, like him, his penury who fain 

Would hide for lhame, upon my brow I wear 

A light and jocund air, 

When all my fecret heart is rack'd with pain. 


This fonnet has two principal diviftons. In the firft my 
objecl is to appeal to the liege fubj eels of Love in the words of 
the prophet Jeremiah : " O vos omnes, qui tranfitis per viam, 
attendite et videte, f ejl dolor ficut dolor mens ; — Oh all ye, 
who pafs by, behold and fee, if there be any f arrow like unto 
my forrow," and to entreat them to give me a hearing; in the 
fecond I defcribe the flate in which Love had placed me, but in 
afenfe different from what is exprejfed in the clofe o f 'the fonnet ; 
and declare what I have loft. The fecond divifion commences 
with the words — " Love, not for any, &c." 

Soon after this noble lady had gone away, it pleafed the 
Lord of the Angels to call unto His glory a young and 
moft well-favoured lady, who was held in much efteem in 
the aforefaid city ; whofe body I faw lying, untreafured of 
its foul, amidft a bevy of ladies, who were weeping moft 
piteoufly. Thereupon remembering me that I had ere- 
while feen her in the company of that moft gentle being, I 
could not choofe but weep ; and in my forrow I refolved 
to write fome lines upon her death, in guerdon of her 
having been fometimes feen with the lady of my heart. 
And in the concluding part of what I wrote I touched 
lightly upon this, as all who apprehend my meaning will 
clearly fee. It was then I wrote thefe two fonnets — the 
firft commencing — " Weep, Lovers, weep /" and the fecond 
— " Ungentle Death ! " 

Weep, lovers, weep, for Love himfelf is weeping, 
When ye fhall learn the caufe he hath for tears ! 
Love the lamenting voice of ladies hears, 
Whofe forrow their fweet eyes in tears is fteeping ; 


For villain Death a cruel deed of fhame 

Hath wrought on heart that was of noble mould, 

Deftroying all the world mult deareft hold 

In gentle lady, fave her honour'd name! 
Now, mark what honour Love to her did pay ! 

For I beheld him, with the pallid face 

Of anguifh, o'er her clay-cold body bent, 
And ofttime to the (ky his gaze was fent, 

Where now that gentle fpirit hath its place, 

That lady was of countenance fo gay. 

This fonnet divides itfelf into three parts. In the firji I 
call entreatingly upon the liege fubjecls of Love to weep, 
and fay that their Lord is weepings and that they, hearing 
the caufe wherefore he weeps, will be the more difpofed to give 
ear unto me; in the fecond I Jlate the caufe; and in the 
third I fpeak of a certain honour done by Love unto the lady 
in quejlion. The fecond part begins with the vjords — " Love 
the lamenting voice, &c." The third, with — " Now, 

Ungentle Death ! companion's enemy, 
Parent of grief, fince Time began to be ! 
Inexorable doom of fouls forlorn, 
Since ever thou my joy from me haft torn, 
That makes me fadly mourn, 
My tongue is wearied in difpraife of thee. 
Sue not for pardon ! I will fpurn thy plea. 

'Tis meet that all the world mould hear from me 
Thy crime — of unbleft deeds the moft unbleft — 
Already fpreads its fame from eaft to weft ; 
But I in every breaft, 
Where love is nulled, would kindle hate of thee. 


Thou from the world haft driven fair courtefy, 

And what of lady is the chiefeft flower, 

Virtue in youth's gay hour, 

All love-infpiring grace, and gladfome witchery. 
Not more will I difclofe of what I fee 

In her I fing, than may be known by this ; 

Who merits not heaven's blifs, 

Ne'er let him hope to bear her company ! 

This fonnet divides itfelf into four parts. In the firjl I 
invoke Death by fome of his appropriate epithets ; in the 
fecond y addrejjing him direStly, I Jiate the reafon which moves 
me to chide him ; in the third I revile him ; in the fourth 
I addrefs a perfon undefined to others, although to my own 
mind he is completely defined. The fecond part begins — 
" Since even thou." The third with — " Sue not for par- 
don." The fourth with — " Who merits not." 

A few days after the death of the lady in queftion I had 
occafion to quit the aforefaid city, and to go towards that 
part of the country where dwelt the noble lady who had 
been my defence ; although the limit of my journey did not 
extend fo far as to where fhe was : and notwithstanding I 
was, to appearance, one of anumerous company, the journey 
caufed me fuch difquietude that my fighs were powerlefs 
to alleviate the torture of my heart at every ftep which 
carried me further from her who was my blifs. And thus 
it befell that my moft gracious mafter, Love, who held me in 
thrall by virtue of that moft gentle lady, appeared to my 
imagination in the likenefs of a pilgrim, fcantily and moft 
meanly clad. He wore a dejecled air, and his eyes were 
fixed intently on the ground, fave when, methought, he 


would ever and anon turn them to a bright fparkling 
ftream that wimpled by the fide of the road on which I 
was. Calling me by name, mefeemed that he addrefted 
me thus : — " I come from that lady who has for long been 
thy defence, and I know that ihe will no more return ; 
wherefore have I now with me that heart which I gave 
thee to wear before her, and am bearing it to a lady who 
will henceforward be thy defence, as fhe was." (And he 
named her to me, fo that I knew her well.) " Nathelefs, 
fhouldft thou repeat any of the words which I have fpoken 
to thee, do fo in fuch wife that the fimulated love may not 
be difcovered which thou haft profeffed for that lady, 
and which it will henceforth behove thee to profefs for 
another." And, having thus fpoken, of a fudden this 
creature of my imagination altogether vanifhed, in con- 
fequence of the exceeding great portion of himfelf which 
Love, as it feemed to me, had endowed me withal ; and 
changed in my whole afpe£r., I rode onward all that day 
wrapped in meditation, and accompanied by many fighs. 
The next day I began the following fonnet : — 

Riding fome days agone in piteous mood, 

Heart rick and weary with the journey's fret, 

Full in the middle of the way I met 

Love in a pilgrim's habit, worn and rude. 
His air, methought, was fadden'd and fubdued, 

As he had been defpoiled of his 1'way ; 

And he came, fadly fighing, up the way, 

With downcaft eyes, unwilling to be view'd. 
When he beheld me, calling me by name, 

" I come," he faid, " from yon far region, now, 


Where dwelt thy heart, while that to me feerrfd fit, 
And for new fervice back am bringing it " 
Then I fo wrapt in thought of him became, 
That he had vaniftTd, and I know not how. 

This fonnet has three parts. In the firjl I ft ate in what 
way I encountered Love, and the afpecl he bore ; in the fecond 
Ijiate what he faid to me, but not wholly, fearing left I might 
thereby reveal my fecret ; in the third I Jlate how he difap- 
peared. The fecond begins with — " When he beheld me." 
The third with — " Then I fo wrapt." 

After my return I fet myfelf to find out the lady whom 
my mafter had named to me on the Road of Sighs ; and, to 
be brief, I foon made her fo completely my defence, that 
obfervations were made in many quarters which paffed the 
bounds of courtefy, whereby I was often much diftreffed. 
And on this account, that is to fay, becaufe of thefe flan- 
derous tongues, by which, as it proved, I was cruelly 
defamed, that-moft gentle being, who was the bane of every 
vice, and the very queen of virtue, denied me, when fhe 
paffed me, that moft gracious falutation, which was my 
all-in-all of blifs. And diverging fomewhat from the 
matter in hand, I defire to explain the benign influence 
which her falutation wrought upon me. I fay, then, that 
whenever and wherever fhe appeared, in the hope of 
that moft pricelefs falute, I had no longer an enemy in 
the world, fuch a flame of charity was kindled within me, 
making me to forgive every one who had offended me ; 
and had I then been afked for any favour upon earth, I 
fhould, with looks clothed with humility, have anfwered 


nought but " Love." And when fhe was on the verge of 
giving me her greeting, the fpirit of love courfed through 
my blood, deadening every other fenfe ; then, mounting 
into my eyes, it drove forth my quailing powers of vifion, 
bidding them do homage to their lady, and he alone re- 
mained where they had been. And whofo had wifhed to 
fee and know Love had only to look upon the tremor of 
my eyes. And when this moft fweet lady did actually 
vouchfafe me her falute, Love had no power to veil for 
me the intolerable blifs, but through the excefs of delight 
he became fuch that my body, which was wholly under 
his control, frequently moved like a heavy dead thing ; 
whereby moft clear it is that in her falutation was centred 
all my blifs — a blifs which was oftentimes greater than I 
could bear. 

To refume. I fay, then, that my blifs being denied me, 
I was affe£ted by fuch profound grief, that, rufhing away 
from the crowd, I fought a lonely fpot wherein to bathe 
the earth with my moft bitter tears ; and, when after a 
fpace thefe tears were fomewhat abated, I betook myfelf 
to my chamber, where I could give vent to my grief un- 
heard. And there, imploring the Lady of Mercy for 
pity, and faying, " Oh, Love, help thy faithful fervant ! " 
I fell afleep, weeping like a beaten child. And lo, about 
the middle of my {lumber, I feemed to fee within my 
chamber, and feated by my fide, a youth arrayed in garments 
of exceeding whitenefs, and wrapt in meditation. His 
eyes were bent upon me where I lay, and when he had 
gazed upon me for a time, methought he accofted me with 


a fign, and addreffed me in thefe words : — " Fill mi, tempus 
eft ut prcetermittantur fimulata noflra. My fon, the time 
is come for laying our pretexts afide." Then, methought, 
I recognized him, forafmuch as he accofted me by the 
fame title as he had occafionally done before in my fleep ; 
and, looking intently upon him, he feemed to be weeping 
piteoufly, and as though he expected fome reply from 
me. Wherefore, taking heart, I thus addreffed him : — 
" Noble fir, wherefore do you weep ? " And he made 
anfwer to me thus : — ■" Ego tanquam centrum circuit, cui 
fimili modo fe habent circumfer entice partes ; tu autem non 
Jic. I am, as it were, the centre of a circle, to which all 
parts of the circumference be in the fame relation ; but 
thou art not fo." Refle6ting on his words, it feemed to me 
he had fpoken very obfcurely, and, making an effort to 
fpeak, I addreffed him thus : — " What is that, my lord, 
which thou haft faid to me in language fo dark?" And 
he anfwered me in the vulgar tongue : — " Afk no more 
than is ufeful for thee to know." Thereupon I began to 
converfe with him touching the falutation which was 
denied me ; and I afked him the caufe ; when his reply 
was to this effecl: : — " Yonder Beatrice of ours has heard 
from certain perfons, who talked of thee, that the lady 
whom I named to thee on the Road of Sighs has fuffered 
fome annoyance at thy hands ; and therefore that moft 
gentle being, who is the oppofite of everything that can 
offend, did not deign to falute thee, fearing fhe too might 
fuffer thereby. Wherefore, although of a truth thy fecret 
is through long ufage in fome meafure known to her, I 


wifh thee to indite certain words in r!:yme, wherein thou 
{halt fet forth the power which I hold over thee through 
her, and how thou didft all at once and for ever become her 
own from thy very boyhood ; and cite, as witnefs of thy 
tale, him who knows it, and fay how thou entreateft him 
to report it unto her ; and I, who am that he, will gladly 
difcourfe to her of thefe things, and thereby fhe will com- 
prehend thy intention and defire, understanding which fhe 
will conftrue aright the words of thofe who are miftaken 
concerning thee. Thefe words fhalt thou couch in fuch 
a form that they (hall not appear to be addrefled to her 
directly, which were unbecoming. Neither fend them 
anywhere without me, whereby they may be rightly appre- 
hended by her, and let them be graced with fweet harmony, 
wherein fhall I at all needful feafons be prefent." And 
having thus fpoken he vanifhed, and my deep was broken. 
Reflecting on this vifion, I found that it appeared to me 
at the ninth hour of the day. And before I left my room 
I refolved to indite a ballad, in which I mould follow the 
injunctions of my mafter ; and the ballad was as follows : — 

My fong, I'd have you find out Love, and ftraight 

With him unto my lady fweet repair, 

That my dear lord may urge the fuit you bear, 

With his o'ermaftering tongue's perfuafive weight. 
Thy bearing is fo courteous, oh my lay, 

That e'en alone thou durft, 

Go where thou wilt, look up with fearlefs glance ! 

But if thou wouldft fecurely take thy way, 

Search out love firft ; 

To move without him were not well, perchance ; 



For fhe, to whom I'd have thee now advance, 

My mind mifgives, is with thee much offended ; 

And if by him thou fhouldft not come attended, 

She thy fair errand haply might mifprize. 
Soft let thy voice, when thou art with her, be, 

And thus thy (train begin, 

Invoking pity firft thy part to take : — 

" Madonna, he, whofe meflenger I be, 

Thy gentle ear would win, 

To lift to me, while his defence I make. 

Here ftandeth Love, who, for thy beauty's fake, 

Transforms my matter's image at his will ; 

Then think, how, whilft his heart's unalter'd ftill, 

Love makes him feem to woo another's eyes." 
Tell her, — " Madonna, with a faith fo lure 

His heart to yours is wrought, 

That all his thoughts are bent on ferving you." 

If fhe believe thee not, 

Bid her of Love demand, if thou be true; 

And laft of all, thy humble prayer renew, 

That fhe forgive my wrong, if wrong there be. 

Or let her bid me die, and fhe fhall fee 

Her fervant can obey the ftern beheft. 
And fay to him, whom all kind thoughts do fway, — 

" Ere from her feet thou ftir, 

Urge thou my plea, till fhe admit it there. 

In virtue of my not unpleafing lay, 

Abide thou here with her, 

And for thy fervant win the guerdon fair. 

If fhe forgive him, yielding to thy prayer, 

Let her proclaim his peace with her dear fmile." 

Now go, my gentle fong, but go the while 

Thou wilt be honour'd as a welcome gueft ! 

This ballad divides itfelfinto three parts. In the firft I 


tell it where to go, and encourage it fo that it may go with 
more confidence, and I Jlate who/e company it is to /eek, if it 
wijhes to go fecurely and without any danger ; in the fecond 
I Jlate what it behoves it to explain ; in the third I give it 
liberty to go wherejoever it plea/es, commending its courfe to 
the arms of Fortune. The fecond part begins tvith — " Soft let 
thy voice. " The third with — " Now go, my gentle fong." 
It is pojjible fome one may objecl to me that it is not clear 
whom I addrefs hi the fecond perj r on, fence the ballad is neither 
more nor lefs than the very words I am /peaking ; and there- 
fore I Jay that I purpofe to refolve this doubt and to make 
it clear in another portion of this book, which is Jlill more 
objcure ; and then let him under/land, who doubts or is minded 
to objecl in the above /train. 

After the vifion defcribed above, and when I had indited 
the words which Love had enjoined me to compofe, 
many and diverfe thoughts began to aflail me, and each 
of them to prefs on me with refiftlefs force ; of which 
four did in an efpecial manner difturb the repofe of my 
life. One was, — " The empiry of Love is good, foraf- 
much as it abftra&s the inclinations of its vaflal from what- 
foever is bafe." Another was, — " The empiry of Love is 
not good, forafmuch as the more abfolute the allegiance of 
his vaflal, the more fevere and woful are the ftraits through 
which he perforce muft pafs." Another was, — " The 
name of Love is fo fweet to the ear that it feems to me 
impoffible its efre£r, mould in moft things be otherwife than 
fweet, feeing that names take after the things named, as it 
is written, Nomina /unt con/equentice rerum." The fourth 


was, — " The lady by whom Love has achieved fuch maftery 
over you is not like other ladies, that her heart mould 
readily be moved." And each of thefe thoughts aflailed 
me fo vehemently that I was brought to a paufe, like one 
that on a journey is perplexed which path he mall choofe, — 
anxious to advance, yet ignorant to which hand he fhall 
dire£t his fteps. And albeit it occurred to me, I might 
felecl: a path which was common to them all, that is, one 
in which they might all accord, to wit, that of invoking 
and throwing myfelf into the arms of pity, yet was that 
path moft diftafteful unto me. And whilft I was in this 
mood, the defire feized me to write fomething in rhyme, 
and fo I compofed this fonnet : — 

Of Love, Love only, fpeaks my every thought; 

And all fo various they be, that one 

Bids me bow down to his dominion ; 

Another counfels me, his power is nought. 
One, flufh'd with hopes, is all with fweetnefs fraught; 

Another makes full oft my tears to run ; 

Difcordant all, fave that, by fears undone, 

They ftrive how gentle pity may be bought. 
Where, then, to turn, what think, I cannot tell. 

Fain would I fpeak, yet know not what to fay, 

I in Love's mazes am bewiluer'd fo : 
And if I would this jarring ftrife allay, 

Then muft I make petition to my foe, 

My Lady Pity, that fhe guard me well. 

This fonnet may be divided into four parts. In the firfl 
I announce the propofition that all my thoughts are of Love ; 
in the fecond I Jlate that they are various^ and mention 
wherein they are fo ; in the third I Jhow wherein they 


appear all to agree; in the fourth I fay, that, wifhing to 
fpeak of Love, I know not from which to take the materials 
for doing fo ; and if I would take from them all, Imujl needs 
invoke my enemy, th*e Lady Pity. I ufe the word Lady in 
an ironical fenfe. The fecond begins with — " And all fo 
various, &c." The third — "Difcordantall." The fourth — 
" Where, then, to turn." 

After this conflict of various thoughts, it chanced that 
this moft noble being was prefent in a numerous affemblage 
of noble ladies, to which I was introduced by a friend ; 
who thought to afford me great pleafure by taking me 
where fo many ladies of a rare beauty were to be feen. 
But I, weeting not whither I was to be taken, and 
relying implicitly on this perfon, whofe own life had been 
endangered by one of his friends, inquired, " Why have 
you brought me among thefe ladies ? " To which he re- 
plied, " In order that they may be fittingly attended." 
And true it is, they were affembled there around a noble 
lady who had that day been wedded ; and therefore, in 
accordance with the ufage of the aforefaid city, it was 
meet that fhe mould be fo attended on firft taking her feat 
at table in the manfion of her new fpoufe ; fo that I, 
thinking to pleafe my friend, determined to place myfelf 
along with him at the difpofal of thofe ladies. And no 
fooner had I come to this determination than I felt a 
ftrange tremor rife within me, beginning in my left breaft, 
and rapidly extending over all my body. Thereupon I 
made a feint of leaning againft a painted wall, which fur- 
rounded the houfe, and fearing that my emotion might be 


obferved, I raifed my eyes, and looking towards the ladies, 
beheld among them the moft gentle Beatrice. Thereupon 
my fpirits were fo diftraught by the vehemence of Love, 
on finding myfelf fo near that moft gentle lady, that nothing 
remained to me of life, but the fpirits of vifion, and even 
thefe were excluded from their own organs, forafmuch as 
Love determined to occupy their moft noble place in order 
to behold that admirable lady; and although I was no 
longer myfelf, my heart ached within me for thofe little 
fpirits who lamented fo vehemently, crying, " If he (Love) 
had not hurled us from our place, we mould have ftood 
to gaze upon this marvel of her kind even as others, who 
are like ourfelves, now do." Then many of thefe ladies, 
perceiving the change which had come over me, began to 
marvel ; and they made a mock of me to that moft gentle 
being, whereupon my deceived, but moft loyal, friend took 
me by the hand, and leading me out of fight of thefe ladies, 
afked me what was the matter. Then having refted 
awhile, and the fpirits which had died within me having 
rifen to life again, and thofe which had been chafed away 
having returned to their abodes, I made anfwer to 
my friend, — " I have fet my foot in that part of life, to 
pafs beyond which with purpofe to return is impoflible." 
And bidding him adieu, I returned home into the chamber 
of tears, and there weeping, and bluftiing as I wept, I faid 
to myfelf, — " If this lady knew my condition, of a furety 
ftie would not fo have made fport of my appearance ; 
rather do I believe fhe would have been moved to pity." 
And in this mood of fadnefs I determined to addrefs fome 


lines to her, in which I mould explain the reafon of my 
emotion, telling her I was well apprifed that fhe wift not 
of it, and that, were it otherwife, her pity, I was fure, 
would no more have been withheld from me than that 
of others. And I made this refolution, hoping that what 
I wrote might peradventure reach her ears. Thereupon 
I compofed the following fonnet : — 

With other ladies thou doft flout at me, 

Nor thinkeft, lady, whence doth come the change, 
That fills mine afpeft with a trouble ftrange, 

When I the wonder of thy beauty fee. 

If thou didft know, thou muft for charity 
Forfwear the wonted rigour of thine eye ; 
For when Love finds me near thee, he fo high 
Dominion takes and fcornful maftery, 

That on my trembling fpirits ftraight he flies, 
And fome he flays, and fome he drives away, 
Till he alone remains to gaze on thee. 

Thence am I changed into another's guife; 

Yet not fo changed, but that the pangs with me, 
Which tortured fo thofe exiled fpirits, flay. 

This fonnet I do not divide into parts ; becaufe fuch divifion 
is made folely to elucidate the meaning of the thing divided: but 
inafmuch as the train of thought is herefufficiently clear, there 
is no occafion for divifion. True it is, that in the paffage 
where I explain the circumjlance which gave rife to this 
fonnet, there are fome ambiguous exprefjions — thofe, I mean, 
where I fay that Love flays all my fpirits, and that thofe of 
vifion remain in life, though extraneoufly to their organs. 
Now this is ambiguous, and impoffible to explain to any one 


who is not in like degree the liegeman of Love ; but to thofe 
who are, the meaning of thefe ambiguous words is obvious. 
Therefore were it not well for me to clear away fuch doubts , 
feeing that my difcourfe would be either bootlefs or fuperfuous. 
After the change came over me which has heen juft 
recorded, I fell into a mood of thought, which took vehe- 
ment pofleflion of me, and fcarcely ever left me ; but would 
evermore recur, arguing with me in this wife : — " Seeing 
thou doft prefent an afpedt fo ridiculous, whenever thou 
art near this lady, wherefore doft thou feek to come into 
her prefence ? Were this queftion afked of thee by her, 
fay, what anfwer wouldft thou have to make, fuppofing thou 
wert fo far mafter of thy faculties that thou couldft make 
anfwer to her at all ? " And to this another thought thus 
humbly made reply, — " If that I loft not the command of 
my faculties, and that I were fo far mafter of myfelf as to 
be able to reply, I would fay to her, ' That fo foon as I 
picture to myfelf her marvellous beauty, a defire to behold 
it ftraightway takes pofleflion of me, and its potency is 
fuch that it flays and utterly deftroys in my remembrance 
whatfoever might rife in oppofltion to it ; and therefore 
all that I have fuffered in the paft cannot reftrain me from 
feeking to obtain a fight of her once more.' " Where- 
upon, ftirred by thefe reflections, I refolved to write fome 
lines in which, while deprecating fuch rebuke from her, 
I might expound what had befallen me when in her pre- 
fence ; and fo I compofed this fonnet : — 

All angry murmurs die within my bread, 
Fair jewel, whenlbe'er I look on thee ; 


And when I'm by thy fide, Love whifpers me, 
" Fly, if to thee Death be no welcome gueft !" 
My heart's pale hue is on my face imprefs'd, 

Fails every prop whereon I mould rely ; 

Methinks the very (tones cry out, " Die, die!" 
So wild the promptings of my fierce unreft. 
A finful man is he who fees me then, 

Nor does not feek by pity's kindly breath 

To clear my foul in its fo dread defpair ; 
That pity, which, alas ! your fcorn hath flain, 

Whofe fad effe&s fpeak in the deathlike glare 

Of thefe poor eyes, that fain would clofe in death. 

This fonnet divides itfelf into two parts. In the firjl I 
Jiate the reajon why I cannot abftain from hovering near this 
lady ; in the fecond I Jiate what befalls me when I approach 
her, beginning with the words — " And when I'm by thy 
fide." Again, this fecond part has five divifions, according 
to the five different fa els narrated. Thus in the firjl I fay 
that Love, counfelled by reajon, informs trie when I am near 
her ; in the fecond, I /how forth the Jiate of my heart by that of 
my countenance ; in the third I declare how I am bereft of 
all my felfi control ; in the fourth I protejl that finful is the 
man who does not Jhow pity for me, Jo as thereby to minijler 
fame comfort to me ; in the lajl I Jhow why it is meet that 
other men Jhould fegl for me, becaufe, to wit, of that piteous 
look which overfpreads my eyes, but which is deftroyed, or, in 
other words, is not apparent to others, in conjequence of the 
mocking of this lady, who influences others to join in her raillery, 
who otherwije perchance would have beenfenfible to my wretch- 
ednefs. The fecond part begins — "My heart's pale hue." The 


third — " Methinks the very ftones." The fourth — " A 
finful man is he." The fifth — " That pity, which, alas !" 
Soon after the occurrences above mentioned, this fonnet 
ftirred within me a defire to write fomething in which I 
mould embody four other particulars concerning my ftate, 
which I conceived had not as yet been exprefled by me. 
The fijrft of thefe was, that many a time I was moved 
with grief, when memory quickened my fancy, to imagine 
what Love had made of me ; the fecond was, that Love 
often aflailed me on the fudden with fuch force that the only 
ftirring of life left within me was the one thought of her 
who was the lady of my heart ; the third was, that, whilft 
this aflault of Love thus raged againft me, I betook me, 
all wan and woe-begone, into the prefence of this lady, 
believing the fight of her would be a buckler of defence 
to me againft its fhafts, forgetting the while what muft 
befall me from the proximity to fuch beauty and noblenefs ; 
the fourth was, how the fight of her not only was no 
defence unto me, but in the end made total difcomfiture 
of what little life was left me. It was in this mood that 
I compofed the following fonnet : — 

Full many a time I ponder on the drear 

And heavy hours which Love doth make my doom ; 

And then I cry, "Alas!" in piteous cheer, 
" Was ever fate like mine, fo wrapt in gloom ?" 
For Love with fudden fhock affails me fo, 

That I of" life am well-a-nigh forfaken ; 

One power alone remains, and that to (how 
The beauties forth that fo my foul have fhaken. 
Then I refolve, — this (hall no longer be, 


And come to leek, thee, all amort and pale, 
Thinking by fight of thee to cure my pain ; 
But when I lift mine eyes to look on thee, 
My heart within my bofom 'gins to quail, 
And my perturbed foul takes flight from every vein. 

This fonnet divides itfelf into four parts ', according to the 
four feparate fails which it records; and as thefe have been 
already expounded, I Jhall merely diflinguijh thefe parts by 
their beginnings ; wherefore I fay that the fecond part be- 
gins — " For Love with fudden fhock." The third — 
" Then I refolve." The fourth— « But when I lift." 

Having compofed thefe three fonnets, addrened to this 
lady, and which were fully defcriptive of my ftate, it was 
my purpofe to write no more, confidering that I had fuffi- 
ciently exprefled what my feelings were. But although 
I was never afterwards to addrefs herfelf, I felt impelled 
to take up a theme which mould be at once novel and at 
the fame time more noble than the paft. And as the 
circumftances which gave rife to this new theme are 
pleafant to hear, I will ftate them as briefly as I may. 

Forafmuch as many perfons had gathered from my ap- 
pearance the fecret of my heart, certain ladies who had 
met together, drawn by delight in each other's fociety, 
knew my heart well, becaufe they had all witnefled my 
manifold difcomfitures. Happening to pafs where thefe 
noble ladies were aflembled, one of them called to me to 
approach. She who fo called me was moft gay and 
pleafant of difcourfe, fo that when I joined their circle, 
and faw that my moft gentle lady was not among them, I 


recovered my courage, and, faluting them, inquired what 
might be their pleafure. There were many ladies there, 
fome of whom were laughing among themfelves, whilft 
others regarded me as if in expectation of what I mould fay. 
Others there were engaged in converfation, of whom one, 
turning her eyes upon me, and calling me by name, 
addrefled me thus, — " Unto what end loveft thou this 
lady, feeing her mere prefence overwhelms thee ? Tell us, 
for of a furety the end and aim of fuch a love muft be of the 
ftrangeft." And when fhe had thus fpoken, not only fhe, 
but all the others, fixed their gaze upon me, awaiting my 
reply. Thereupon I anfwered, — " The end and aim of 
my love hath until now been the falutation of this lady, of 
whom belike you fpeak, and in that falutation I found the 
blifs which was the aim of all my defires. But fince it 
pleafeth her to deny it to me, Love, my liege lord, in guer- 
don of my fealty, has placed all my happinefs in fomething 
which can in no wife fail me." Thereupon thefe ladies 
fell to converfing among themfelves ; and as upon occafion 
we fee rain falling mingled with fair flakes of fnow, fo did 
their words feem to me intermingled with fighs. And 
when they had talked together for a time, the lady, who 
had previoufly fpoken, once more addrefled me thus : — 
" Tell us, we befeech thee, wherein refts this happinefs 
of thine?" And I made anfwer thus: — " In the words 
which fpeak the praifes of my lady." And fhe replied, — 
" Speakeft thou the truth, then thofe words which thou 
haft fpoken, as expreffive of thy ftate, muft have been put 
forth by thee with fome other purpofe." Whereupon 


reflecting on thefe words, a fenfe of fhame came over me, 
and I took my leave ; and as I went I faid within myfelf, — 
" Since there is happinefs fo great in thofe words which 
fpeak the praifes of my lady, wherefore did I bethink me 
of fpeaking aught elfe ? " And I determined for the future 
to take the praifes of that moft gentle being as the theme of 
my difcourfe ; and after meditating long thereon, me- 
feemed I had chofen a theme fo much too lofty for my 
powers that I had not the courage to begin ; and thus 
for fome days I wavered between the defire to write and 
the fear to make a beginning. Then it chanced that 
walking one day along a road, by the fide of which ran a 
clear and fparkling ftream, I was feized with a defire to 
fing of her fo ftrong, that ftraightway I began to confider 
in what terms I mould couch my ftrain; and I thought 
it would be unmeet to fing of her, fave to ladies and in 
the fecond perfon, and not to every lady either, but only 
to fuch as were pure and noble. Thus, as it were fpon- 
taneoufly, the following words mounted to my lips, — 
Ladies, *who in Love's lore are deeply read! 

Thefe words I treafured up in my mind with great delight, 
thinking to ufe them for the opening of my lay j where- 
fore having returned home, after fome days of meditation, 
I began the following canzone : — 

Ladies, who in Love's lore are deeply read, 
I of my lady would difcourfe with you 5 
I cannot paint her worth in colours true, 
Yet will my heart be eafed by this eflay. 
When all her graces rife before my view, 


Such fweetnefs on my foul by love is fhed, 

That, if I then but dared the theme purfue, 

The world would be enamour'd of my lay. 

In no afpiring verfe will I portray 

Her charms, left fear mould mame my trembling wing ; 

But of her noble nature I will fing, 

In ftrains that feebly all her worth difplay, 

To you, fair dames and damofels, for this 

Is not a theme for meaner ears, I wis. 

An angel, gifted high with godlike thought, 
Calls out, and fays, " Sire, in the world are feen 
Deeds palling wonder, by a foul ywrought 
Whofe brightnefs e'en thus high reflects its ftieen !" 
The heavens, which, faving her, did lack for nought, 
For this excelling gift its lord belbught, 
And every faint put up a fuppliant prayer. 
Pity alone for us ftept in between. 
" What judgeth God, mall with Madonna fare ?" 
" Beloved well of me, in patience bear, 
That, while me pleafeth fo, your hope ferene 
Should tarry, where is one her lofs fhall wail, 
And who will tell the accurft who writhe in bale, 
I of the bleft the blefsed hope have feen." 

In the high heavens they for Madonna long; 
Now would I make you of her worth to know. 
Let her, I fay, who would feem noble, go 
Still by her fide ; for when fhe paffeth by, 
Love calls on villain hearts a blight fo ftrong, 
That all their thoughts are numb'd and ftricken low ; 
And whom he grants to gaze on her muft grow 
A thing of noble ftature, or muft die. 
And when he finds a man that in her eye 
May fitly ftand, that man her worth approves, 


Health-giving joy within his bofom moves, 
And wrong-forgetting, meek, humility, 
Still higher grace to him kind Heaven doth fend, 
For who hath talk'd with her can have no evil end. 

Love fays of her, " Can aught of mortal clay 
Be all fo pure, yet fo divinely fair ?" 
Then, eyeing her, he to himfelf doth fwear 
Heaven meant in her a paragon to frame. 
Her fkin is tin£t like pearl, yet fuch as may 
A lady in her beauty fitly wear. 
She is the fum of all on earth moft rare ; 
Beauty by her bright ftandard tefts its claim. 
From her fweet eyes Love's thrilling foul of flame 
Goes fparkling forth, whene'er (he looks around, 
Striking the eyes that on her charms are bound, 
And piercing, till each heart doth feel its blame. 
You fee Love pictured on her face ; but none 
With fixed eye may gaze that face upon. 

My Song, with ladies manifold, I know, 

Thou wilt converfe, when thou {halt forth be fent, 
Then heed my counfel, fince I've nurfed thy bent, 
As Love's own daughter, gentle, young, and gay. 
Be this thy prayer, wherever thou doft go : — 
" Teach me the way to her, whole praife is blent 
In all my lines, — their glorious ornament ! " 
And that my tafk its end accomplifh may, 
Linger not thou with men of vulgar clay ; 
Strive, if fo be thou canft, that thou be fhown 
To man or maid of courteous heart alone, 
For thefe eftfoons will fpeed thee on thy way. 
Where fhe is, thou wilt find Love feated too ; 
Commend me to him, as behoves thee do. 


To the end this canzone may be better under/load, I will 
divide it more artificially than I have done the pieces which 
precede it, and therefore I make of it three parts. The fir/l is 
the pro'emium ; the fecond the theme to be treated; the third 
is as it were auxiliary to what has gone before. The fecond 
begins with the words — " An angel gifted high." The third 
with — " My fong, with ladies manifold." The fir/l part 
divides itfelf into four ; in the firjl I Jlate to whom I wijh to 
difcourje of my lady, and why ; in the fecond I Jlate what 
her worth appears in my eyes when I mufe upon it, and how 
I would fin g of it, did not my courage fail me ; in the third 
I Jlate how I trufl to fing,fo as not to be hindered by my own 
unworthinefs ; in the fourth, repeating once again for whom 
I intend tofing, I Jlate the reafon why Ifing to them. The 
fecond begins — " When all her graces." The third — " In 
no afpiring verfe." The fourth — "To you, fair dames." 
With the words — " An angel gifted high," I begin to treat 
of this lady ; and this part fubdivides itfelf into two. In 
the firfil I exprefs how Jhe is ejleemed of in heaven ; in the 
fecond I exprefs how Jhe is ejleemed of upon earth, at the words 
— " In the high heavens they for Madonna long." This 
fecond part divides itfelf into two, in the fir Jl of which I dif- 
courfe of her as touching the noblenefs of her foul, mentioning 
feveral of the graces which emanate from her foul; in the 
fecond I dijcourfe of her as touching the noblenefs of her body, 
mentioning fome of her beauties in the words — " Love fays 
of her, &c." This fecond part fubdivides itfelf into two; 
for in the fir/l I mention fundry charms which embrace her 
whole perfon ; whiljl in the fecond I draw attention to par- 


ticular charms in the zvords — " From her fweet eyes." 
Again, this fecond part has two divifions ; for in one I fpeak 
of the eyes, which are the beginning of Love ; in the fecond, 
of the mouth, which is the confummation of Love. And in 
order that every vicious thought may be difpelled, let whofo 
reads remember, that above it is written, that this lady's 
falutation, which was given by the operation of her mouth, 
was the end of my defires,fo long as it was permitted me to 
receive it. In the words that follow — " My fong, &c," / 
add a ftanza as the handmaiden, as it were, of the others, in 
which I flate what it is that I defire of this my fong ; and 
forafmuch as this part is eafy to under/land, I do not trouble 
my f elf with more fubdivifions. True it is, that, more fully to 
develope the meaning of this can-zone, refort Jhould be had to 
fubdivifions more minute', nathelefs, he who has not wit 
enough to under/land it by the help of thofe already given, I 
Jhall not be difpleafed if he let it alone ; for truly I fear, I 
have already imparted its meaning to too many by the fore- 
going fubdivifions, if peradventure it Jhould chance to reach 
the ears of many readers. 

This canzone having become known in certain quar- 
ters, it reached the ears of a friend, who was thereby 
induced to entreat me to expound to him, " What is 
Love ? " he having peradventure conceived hopes of me 
from hearing this canzone that outran the meafure of my 
deferts. Thereupon I, thinking that, after fuch a poem 
as the above, to write fomething about Love would 
be not unmeet ; thinking, moreover, that it behoved me 
to oblige my friend, I determined to write fome lines in 



which I mould difcourfe of Love. This fonnet was the 
refult : — 

They are the fame, Love and the gentle heart ! 
So runs the faw, which from the fage I (tole ; 
Nor can they more abide, from each apart, 
Than reafon parted from the reafoning foul. 

Nature in genial hour created thefe, 

Love to be king, theTiearthis royal place, 
Where numbering he lies, and takes his eafe, 
A moment now, now for a lengthen'd fpace. 

Beauty, in lady breathing thoughtful breath, 

Comes, witching all ; then in the heart doth grow 
Defire of that which makes its great delight ; 

And lingering there, fo long it tarrieth, 
That it awakes the fleeping Love ; and fo 
Hath manly worth in lady equal might ! 

This fonnet divides itfelf into two parts. In the firjl I 
fpeak of love in relation to his power ; In the fecond in relation 
to his aclion. The fecond begins at — " Beauty in lady." 
The firjl part has two dlvlfions. In the firjl I Jlate In what 
fubjecl this poem abides ; In the fecond how this fubjeil and 
this power are begotten together, and hotv the one has regard 
to the other, as form to matter. The fecond begins at — 
" Nature, in genial hour." When afterwards I fay — 
" Beauty in lady, &c," I Jhow how this power reduces itfelf 
to aclion firjl In man, and afterguards in ivoman, in the 
words — " And fo hath manly worth, Sec." 

Having thus difcourfed of Love in the above verfes, the 
defire came upon me to write alfo in praife of that moft 
gentle being fome lines in which I might exprefs how this 


love is awakened by her, and awakened withal not only 
where it is merely dormant, but even, fuch is her mar- 
vellous influence, where it had no previous exiftence. 
This gave rife to the following fonnet : — 

Love hath his throne within my lady's eyes, 

Whence all fhe looks on wears his gracious mien. 
All turn to gaze, where fhe abroad is feen, 
And whom fhe greets from him his colour flies ; 

With downward gaze he ftands abafh'd, and fighs, 
Remembering all his own unworthy blames. 
Anger and pride before her fly. Ye Dames, 
v - Lend me your aid, her matchlefs worth to prize ! 

All gentlenefs, all thoughts ferene and meek, 
Grow in the heart of him that hears her voice. 
To fee her once is ever to rejoice j 

Her look, when a faint fmile is on her cheek, 
Nor tongue can tell, nor memory hold in view, 
So winning-gracious is the fight, and new. 

This fonnet has three parts. In the firjl I Jhow how this 
lady brings this power into aclion, by means of her eyes, that 
moji noble feature ; and in the third I Jhow how the fame 
refult is wrought by that other mojl noble part, her mouth ; and 
between thefe two parts of the fonnet comes a brief paff age, 
which calls, as it were, for aid, both from what goes before 
and what follows it, beginning with the words — " Ye Dames, 
lend me your aid." The third commences at — " All 
gentlenefs." The firjl has three divifons. In the firjl I 
Jlate with what excelling potver Jhe ennobles whatever Jhe 
looks upon, which is equivalent to faying that Jhe kindles Love 
into being tvhere before he was not. In the fecond I fay how 


Jhe quickens Love into aclion in the hearts of all thofe on whom 
Jhe looks. In the third I /peak of the influence which forth- 
with works within their hearts. The fecond begins at — 
" All turn to gaze." The third at — " And whom me 
greets." When further on I fay — " Ye Dames, lend me 
your aid," I indicate thofe whom it is my intention to addrefs, 
by calling on thefe ladies to aid me in doing honour to her. 
Then when I fay — " All gentlenefs," / repeat what has 
been faid in the firft part, having regard to two aclions of 
her mouth, one of which is its mojl fweet utterance, and the 
other its wondrous fmile. Mark, however, that I do not fay 
of this lajl how it works within the hearts of others, feeing 
that the memory can neither retain her fnile, nor its effecls. 
Not many days after this fonnet was written, (fo it was 
ordained by that glorious Lord of Heaven, who Himfelf 
refufed not to undergo death,) he who had been the pro- 
genitor of all the wondrous perfections, which were dis- 
played in that moft excelling Beatrice, departing from this 
life, pafled of a furety into eternal glory. Wherefore, 
forafmuch as fuch a feparation is moft fad to thofe who 
are left behind, and to whom he who has paffed away 
was dear ; and as, moreover, there is no relation fo dear 
as that of a good father to a good child, and of a good 
child to a good father ; and as this lady was pre-eminently 
good, and her father (as by many is thought, and as in 
truth he was) was likewife eminently good, it needs not 
to declare that her grief was moft bitter and abounding. 
And feeing that, according to the ufage of the aforefaid 
city, women at thefe woful feafons unite their grief with 


women, and men with men, many ladies repaired to the 
place where Beatrice bewailed her lofs with many tears j 
certain of which ladies I faw returning thence, and heard 
them fpeak of that moft gentle being, and, how profound 
was her affliction. And, amongft others, thefe words 
reached me — " She weeps fo, that whoever fees her muft 
furely die of pity." Then thefe ladies pafled on, and I 
remained in fuch diftrefs that my cheeks were bathed in 
tears, to conceal which I had again and again to raife my 
hands to my eyes. And had it not been that I hoped to 
hear more about her (for where I flood the greater pro- 
portion of thofe ladies, as they quitted her, were obliged 
to pafs), I mould have fought concealment incontinently 
the fit of weeping feized me. And whilft I lingered in 
the fame fpot fome more ladies went by, converfing as 
they went in thefe words, — " Who among us that has 
heard this lady's words of anguifh can ever fmile again ?" 
After thefe came others, faying, as they pafled, " Yonder 
man weeps for all the world as if he had feen her, as we 
have done." Anon others fpoke thus of me, — " Behold, 
he is fo changed, he feems no longer like himfelf!" In 
this wife did I hear thefe ladies, as they went by, com- 
ment on her and on myfelf ; mufing whereon, and feeing 
the occafion to be worthy, I determined to write fome lines 
which mould embody all that I had heard thefe ladies fay. 
And as, but for the fear of provoking their rebuke, I 
would fain have afked fome queftions of them, I dealt with 
my theme as though I had actually afked them, and they 
had anfwered me. And I compofed two fonnets ; in the 


firft I put the queftion which I had longed to afk j in the 
other I give their anfwer, adopting what I had heard them 
fay, as though it had fallen from them in reply to my 
inquiry. The firft began — " Te who a femblance." The 
fecond — " Art thou the ?nan." 

Ye, who a femblance fo dejected wear, 

With downcaft eyes, that (how your griefs to view, 
Whence do ye come, that in your pallid hue 
The colour of the marble ftone you wear ? 

Say, have ye feen our lady fweet, her fair 

Meek vifage bathed in tears' ungracious dew ? 
Speak, ladies, fpeak ! is my heart's whifper true, 
The whifper prompted by your noble air ? 

And if ye come where grief fuch triumph kept, 
Then reft ye with me yet awhile, I pray, 
And hide not from me what her forrows be j 

For by your eyes I fee that you have wept, 
And, changed fo fadly, ye retrace your way, 
That my heart trembles fuch diftrefs to fee. 

This fonnet divides itfelf into two parts. In the firft, 
appealing to thefe ladies, I afk if they come from her, telling 
them I think they do, becaufe their afpecl as they return 
appears ennobled; in the fecond I befeech them to fpeak to 
me of her : and the fecond begins at — " And if ye come." 

Art thou the man, who haft fo often fung 

To us the worth that in our lady lies? 

Thy voice is his full furely, but thy guife 

Proclaims thee of a different lineage fprung. 
Why doft thou weep, with heart fo forely wrung, 

That others look on thee with pitying eyes ? 


Say, haft thou feen her weep, and in fuch wife, 
Thou couldft not hide the grief that to thee clung ? 

Leave us to weep, and fadly range along. 
He does a fin who feeks to comfort us ; 
For we have heard her in her anguifti cry ; 

And fo deject her look, and piteous, 

That whofbe'er fliould view fuch forrow's wrong, 
Muft feel his heart for grief within him die. 

This fonnet has four parts, in accordance with the four 
different modes of fpeaking of the ladies for whom I make 
reply. But as, after what has been Jaid above, they are 
fuffciently obvious, I do not concern myfelf with expounding 
the import of the various parts, but merely diflinguijh them. 
The fecond begins at — " Why doft thou weep ?" The third 
at — " Leave us to weep." The fourth — " And fo deject 
her look." 

A few days after this it chanced that a moft painful in- 
firmity attacked me in a certain part of my body, which for 
many days caufed me excruciating pain, whereby I was 
reduced to a ftate of fuch extreme weaknefs that I was 
unable to move. On the ninth day, at a moment when 
I felt the pain to be unbearable, the thought of my lady 
ftole into my mind. And after I had mufed concerning 
her for fome time, my thoughts reverted to my own en- 
feebled life, and feeing how fleeting muft be its duration, 
even although it fhould be unfhaken by difeafe, I began 
to mourn inwardly at the thought of all this mifery. 
Whereupon, fighing heavily, I faid within myfelf, " It 
needs muft be that the moft gentle Beatrice fhall die ! " 
and at this thought I was fo overwhelmed with difmay, 


that I clofed my eyes, and began to be difquieted like one 
befide himfelf, and to fee ftrange vifions, as thus : — In the 
firft wanderings of my fancy, there appeared to me the 
faces of women with difhevelled hair, who faid to me, 
" Thou fhalt furely die ! " And after thefe certain other 
faces appeared to me, which were horrible to behold, and 
which faid to me, " Thou art dead ! " My fancy having 
thus begun to wander, I came at laft to fuch a point that 
I knew not where I was ; and it feemed to me as though 
I beheld women pafs before me weeping, with difhevelled 
hair, all marvelloufly fad ; and, methought, I faw the fun 
darkened, fo that the ftars were vifible, and of a colour 
that made me think they wept ; and methought the birds, 
as they flew by, fell dead, and that the earth quaked fear- 
fully. And as I lay wrapt in wonder at thefe fancies, 
and grievoufly afraid, I fancied that a friend came to me 
and faid, " Knoweft thou not, thy moft excellent lady hath 
quitted this mortal fphere ?" Thereupon I fell to weeping 
moft piteoufly, and I wept not in imagination only, but 
with my eyes, bathing them with veritable tears. Then 
methought I looked up towards heaven, and it feemed to 
me as though I beheld a multitude of angels, winging 
their way upwards, and before them they bore a little 
cloud of exceeding whitenefs ; thefe angels, methought, 
were iinging glorioufly, and the words of their fong, me- 
feemed, were thefe — " Ofanna in excel/Is/" and other 
words than thefe I did not hear. Thereafter it feemed to 
me as if my heart, wherein was fo much love, faid to me, 
" It is true that our lady is dead !" And forthwith, me- 


thought, I went to view the body, in which that moft 
noble and blefled foul had dwelt. And fuch force had my 
erring fancy, that it mowed me my lady dead ; and it 
feemed to me that women were covering her head with 
a white veil ; and her features wore fuch an afpecl: of 
humility, that they feemed to fay, " Now do I behold the 
beginning of peace ! " Abforbed in contemplation of this 
vifion, an humility fo profound came over me, "that I 
called upon death, " Come to me, and deal not churlifhly 
with me, for furely it behoveth thee to be gentle, feeing 
where thou haft been ; come, then, to me, that do defire 
thee much. Lo, already do I wear thy colour ! " And 
when I had feen all the mournful myfteries completed, 
which are wont to be performed to the bodies of the dead, 
methought I returned to my chamber, and, being there, 
I turned my gaze heavenward ; and fo potent was my 
imagination, that I began to weep and cry aloud, " Oh, 
moft lovely foul, how is he bleft who beholds thee ! *' 
and as I uttered thefe words with heavy fobs of anguifh, 
and called upon death to come to me, a young and noble 
lady, who was feated by my couch, thinking that my tears 
and words were lamentations caufed by the pain of my 
diforder, was feized with apprehenfion and began to weep ; 
whereupon certain other ladies, who were in the room, 
perceived that I was weeping, by the tears which they 
faw her fried, and having made this lady, who was moft 
nearly allied to me by blood, quit my fide, they drew near 
to wake me, thinking that I dreamt, and told me " to 
fleep no more, and not to be difquieted." Hearing myfeL 


thus addrefTed, the potent fancy ended, juft as I was on 
the point of faying, " Oh, Beatrice, mayeft thou be blefled !" 
and already had I faid, " Oh, Beatrice !" when, recover- 
ing myfelf, I opened my eyes, and faw I had been deceived ; 
and albeit I had pronounced her name, my voice was fo 
broken by fobs and tears that thefe ladies could not catch 
the found. And though I was forely afhamed, yet upon 
a certain prompting of love I turned round towards them. 
And when they faw me, they began to fay, " He feems 
to be dead," and to whifper among themfelves, " Let us 
efTay to confole him ! " Then, having firft foothed and 
comforted me with gentle words, they afked me of what 
I had been afraid. To which I, being in fome meafure 
tranquillifed, and confcious of the falfity of my vifion, 
replied, " I will tell you what has ailed me !" Then, be- 
ginning at the beginning, I told them all that I had feen, 
but avoiding all mention of that moft gentle lady's name. 
When afterwards I recovered from this illnefs, I refolved 
to embody this incident in verfe, forafmuch as it feemed 
to me that it would be a thing delectable to hear ; and fo 
I compofed the following canzone : — 

A LADY fair, companionate, and young, 
With all good graces bounteoufly adorn'd, 
Stood by, where, calling oft on death, I lay ; 
When me beheld my face with anguifh wrung, 
And heard the wandering words wherein I mourn'd, 
She wept aloud, fo fore was her difmay ; 
And other ladies, by thefe founds of woe 
Attracted to the chamber where I lay, 
Led her, all tears, away, 


Then ftrove my wilder' d fenfes to reftore ; 

And one cried, " Sleep no more !" 

Another, " Wherefore doft thou vex thee fo ?" 

Then through the mifts of that ftrange dream I broke, 

And, calling on my lady's name, awoke. 

So mournful were the accents from me came, 
And broken fo with fobs and fighs, that I 
Alone within my heart did know that found j 
And, with a vifage all abafh'd with fhame, 
Which to my cheek had fent its blulhing dye, 
Touch'd by their gentle love, I turn'd me round, 
So wan and worn, that, feeing me, they found 
Sad images of death around them fpread. 
" Oh, foothe this weary head !" 
So whifper'd each to each in accents foft3 
And they did afk me oft, 

" What has unmann'd thee fo with direful ftound ?" 
And when I had fome wife been comforted, 
" Ladies, I'll tell you what I faw !" I faid. 

Whilft I lay mufing on my life's decay, 

And faw how frail it was, how brief its fpan, 

Love wept within my heart, where he doth lie ; 

For that my foul was {truck with fuch difmay, 

As o'er my thought the fad reflection ran, 

That all too furely fhould my lady die. 

Then was I fmitten with fuch agony, 

That mine eyes clofed, weigh'd down with dark defpair, 

And fo affrighted were 

My fpirits, that they all turn'd round in flight ; 

And then, reft of the light 

Of knowledge and of truth, in fancy's eye 

Women I faw, that moan'd along the air, 

" Thou'rt dead ! " and " Thou (halt die !" and refted ne'er. 


Next many a ftrange and doubtful fhape of woe 
I faw, whilft through that idle dream I went. 
I feem'd to be I knew not where, and fee 
Ladies difhevell'd, wandering to and fro, 
Some, weeping, and fome uttering loud lament, 
That to my foul fhot burning agony. 
Then flowly grew the fun, as feem'd to me, 
Dark and more dark, and Love's ftar fliow'd its head, 
And tears by both were ihed ; 
Birds, flying through the air, fell to the ground, 
And the earth quaked around, 
And a man hail'd me, wan, with tottering knee, 
" How now ! haft thou not heard the news ? " he faid, 
" Thy lady, fhe who was fo fair, is dead." 

I raifed my eyes, that drowned were with tears, 
And, like fome gently falling fhower of manna, 
Angels I faw up to the welkin foar. 
Before them that bright choir a cloudlet bears, 
And, as they mount, they all cry out, " Hofannah ! " 
What elfe they faid my mind hath not in ftore. 
Then Love exclaim'd, " I'll hide the truth no more, 
Come, fee our lady, where in death fhe lies." 
Imagination's fantafies 
Then took me, where I faw my lady dead. 
And when with her I had my gazing fed, 
Some ladies drew a fcarf the body o'er $ 
And on her face was perfedt calm exprefs'd, 
That feem'd as though it faid, " I am at reft ! " » 

Then in my grief I grew fo meek of mind, 
Seeing in her a meeknefs fo ferene, 
That I exclaim'd, " Oh, Death, I hold thee fweet, 
Since thou haft with my deareft lady been. 
Thou fhouldft be deem'd a gentle thing and kind j 


Pity, and not difdain, for thee were meet, 

So long I to thy manfions to retreat, 

Thy colours are upon my heart imprefs'd ; 

Oh, come at its beheft !" 

Then went I forth, with figh and heavy moan ; 

And when I was alone, 

I laid, and look'd to heaven, her blefsed feat, 

" Oh, beauteous foul, who feeth thee is bleft ! " 

When, thanks ! you woke me from that dream's unreft. 

This canzone has two parts. In the firfl, addrejjing fome 
undefined perfon, IJlate how I was roufed out of a fantajiic 
dream by certain ladies, and how I promifed to recount it to 
them. The fecond begins at — " Whilft I lay mufing." 
The firji part has two divifions. In the firji of thefe I fet 
forth what certain ladies, and one efpecially, faid and did 
during my trance, and before I returned to complete confciouf 
nefs ; in the fecond I flate what thefe ladies faid to me when 
I had Jhaken off this hallucination, beginning at the words — 
" So mournful were the accents." When further on I 
fay — " Whilft I lay mufing," / recount what I had beheld 
in my vifion precifely as I recounted it to them. And this part 
of the poem, again, has two divifions ; in the firfl I record 
the vifon in the order in which it prefented itfelf; in the 
fecond, after flating the precife time when they recalled me to 
my fenfes, I conclude by thanking them; and this latter part 
begins at — " When, thanks ! you woke me." 

Soon after I had feen this vifion, one day as I fat mufing 
in a certain fpot, I felt a fudden trembling at my heart, 
precifely as though I had been in that lady's prefence. 
Straightway Love appeared to me in a vifion, and me- 


feemed as if he came from where my lady dwelt, and a 
voice feemed to cry joyoufly within my heart, " Think of 
blefling the day when firft I mattered thee, for in footh thou 
oughteft fo to do." And indeed fo joyful was my heart 
within me, that it feemed as though it could not be my 
heart, fo unlike it was to what it had erewhile been. And 
fliortly after thefe words, which my heart had fpoken 
to me with this tongue of Love, I faw coming towards 
me a noble lady, who was renowned for her beauty, and 
had been for fome time the lady love of my foremoft friend. 
And the name of this lady was Giovanna, but becaufe of 
her beauty, as fome opine, (he had received the name of 
Primavera, and fo was fhe generally called. And as I 
looked towards her I faw Beatrice, that fair wonder, ad- 
vancing behind her ; thefe ladies pafled by where I ftood, 
each clofe to the other, and it feemed to me that Love 
fpoke within my heart, and faid, " This lady is called 
Primavera folely becaufe of her coming here to-day ; for 
it was I who firft moved him, who firft gave her that 
name, to Call her c Primavera,' that is prima verra, ( c who 
fhall come firft,') on the day when Beatrice fhall firft ap- 
pear to her faithful fubje£t after his vifion ; and if thou 
wilt confider her firft name, it is tantamount to calling her 
Primavera, fince her name Giovanna is derived from that 
Giovanni (John) who preceded the true light, faying, ' Ego 
vox clamantis in deferto, Par ate viam Domini.' (I am as the 
voice of one that crieth in the wildernefs, Prepare ye the 
way of the Lord ! ) " Methought, moreover, he faid to me 
thefe other things. " Whofoever is more fubtle of appre- 


henfion would call yonder Beatrice Love, for the great 
refemblance which fhe bears to me." Refle&ing upon 
this I determined to write in rhyme to my foremoft friend 
(palling over in filence certain expreflions which it feemed 
fitting to omit), believing as I did that his heart ftill beat 
as warmly as ever in admiration of the beauty of this noble 
Primavera ; and fo I compofed this fonnet : — 
I felt within my heart a fudden war 

Of fancies fweet, which (lumbering there had been, 

And then I faw Love coming from afar ; 

Yet hardly knew him, all fo blithe his mien. 
" Now do me honour meet ! " did he exclaim ; 

And fmiles were clufter'd round his every word ; 

Some little fpace I flood befide my lord, 

When, looking towards the quarter whence he came, 
I faw the lady Vanna, fide by fide 

With Lady Bice, — each a miracle — 

To where we flood, advancing fmilingly. 
Then Love to me, as I flood wondering, cried, 

" This maid is Spring ! " his words I noted well, 

" That Love is calPd, flie fo refembles me." 

This fonnet has ?nany parts. The firji Jlates how 1 felt 
the accuftomed tremor atvakened within my heart, and how 
Love appeared to me far off, all radiant with joy. The 

fecond Jlates what Love feemed to whifper within my heart, 
and in what mood he feemed to be. The third mentions cer- 
tain things which I heard and faw, after he had been for 

fome time befide me. The fecond part begins at — " Now do 
me honour meet!" The third at — " Some little fpace." 
The third part has two divifions ; in the firjl of which I 

Jlate what I faw, beginning at — " Then Love to me." 


Here now might one who is worthy to have all his doubts 
refolved be inclined to paufe and make quejlion as to the way 
in which I fpeak of Love , as if he were a thing fubfijling by 
himfelf, and not merely an intelligent, but a corporeal fubflance, 
which propofition, in flricl truth, is falfe ; for Love is not, 
fo to fpeak, an i ndependent fub fiance, but is an accident in 
fubjlance. Tet that I fpeak of him as though he were a 
body, yea, as though he were a man, appears by three things 
which I fay of him. I fay that I faw him coming from afar, 
wherefore, forafmuch as to come expreffes change of place 
{and body alone, according to the philofopher, has the power 
to pafs from place to place), it is clear that I affume Love to 
be corporeal. Again, I fay that he fmiled, and alfo that he 
fpoke, things which are both, and efpecially the p ower to J mile \ 
peculiarly the attributes of man ; and therefore it is clear 
that I affume him to be human. To explain this point, fo 
far as is meet for our prefent purpofe, it mujl in the firfl 
place be underjiood, that of old there were no writers on Love 
in the vulgar tongue, whilfl, however, there were poets who 
wrote on Love in the Latin tongue. Amongfl ourfelves, I 
fay, [and the fame thing may have happened among other 
nations, and happens flill,) jufl as in Greece, it was not poets 
of the common fort, but only men of learning and culture, who 
treated of fuch matters. Nor have many years gone by fence 
thefe poets in the vulgar tongue firfl appeared; for writing 
in rhyme in the vulgar tongue is very much the fame thing 
as writing in verfe in Latin ; and as a proof how fhort the 
time is, if we will only make refearch in the languages of oc 
and si, zue /hall find nothing written on this theme one hun- 


dred and fifty years before the prefent epoch ; and the reafon 
why certain illiterate men acquired fiome reputation as writers, 
is, that they were the firfi who wrote in the language of 
si. And the man who firjl began to write poetry in the 
vulgar tongue was moved thereto by the wijh to make his uerfes 
underjlood by his lady, who would have found it hard to com- 
prehend Latin verfes. And this operates again/I thofe who 
rhyme on other topics than Love, inafmuch as that mode of 
compofition was from the firft invented merely for difcourfe of 
Love ; wherefore, for af much as greater licence of difcourfe is 
permitted to poets than to writers in profe, and as thefe writers 
in rhyme are exclufively writers in the vulgar tongue, it is 
fit and rea finable that greater licence of fipeech be allowed to 
them than to other writers in the vulgar tongue ; confequently , 
%vh at ever figure or colour of rhetoric is allowable to the poets, 
is alfo allowable to thofe who write in rhyme. If, then, we 
fee that the poets have fpoken to inanimate things as if they 
had fienfe and reajon, and have made them hold converfe with 
each other, and not only real things, but things that are not 
real, [as, for example, in making things fpeak which have 
no exiflence, and accidents difcourfe as though they were 
fubflances and human beings,) it is only meet, that the writer 
in rhyme Jhould do the like, not indeed without regard to rea- 
fon, but in conformity with fiuch reafon as he may be after- 
wards able to expound in profe. That the poets have fpoken 
in this wife is manifefl from that pafif age in Virgil, (yEneid, 
Book i.) where funo, a goddefs hoflile to the Trojans, fpeaks 
to Molus the god of the winds, "iEoLE, namque tibi, &c," 
and he replies to her, " Tuus, o Regina, quid optes, &c." 


The fame poet (iEneid, Book in.) makes the inanimate 
addrefs the animate thus, " Dardanidje duri, &c." In 
Lucan the animate addrefs the inanimate, " Multum, Roma, 
tamen debes civilibus armis." In Horace man [peaks 
to his own art, as to a third perfon ; and the words are 
not only thofe of Horace, but he fpeaks them as the medium 
of the divine Homer, — " Die mihi, Musa, virum, &c." 
(Ars Poetica). Ovid (Remedium Amoris, Book 1.) makes 
Love fpeak as if he were a human beings "Bella mihi, 
video, BELLA parantur, ait." By thefe examples, any 
one who is at a lofs in any part of this little book of mine 
may have his doubts cleared up. But that no groff-witted 
perfon may a fume too wide a licence , I fay, that even as the 
poets do not ufe this mode of fpeech without regard to reafon, 
neither ought thofe who rhyme to write as if they had no 
rational purpofe in what they write ; for it were great Jhame 
to any man, who, having rhymed on any theme under the garb 
of fome figure or colour of rhetoric, Jhould be unable, when 
required, to denude his language of that garb fo as to unveil 
his real meaning. Th at, f or emofi friend of mine and I could 
point to fever al who rhyme in this abfurd manner. 

That moft gentle lady, of whom I have before fpoken, 
became an object of fo much intereft, that, as Ihe pafled 
along the ftreet, people ran to catch a fight of her — a cir- 
cumftance which gave me wonderful delight ; and when fhe 
drew near to any one, a feeling of reverence fo profound 
came over his heart, that he had not courage to raife his 
eyes, nor to return her falute j and of this many could 
bear witnefs from their own experience to fuch as may be 


incredulous. But fhe, crowned and clothed with humility, 
purfued her way, teftifying no triumph in the admira- 
tion which me faw and heard around her. Many ex- 
claimed as fhe went by, " This is not a woman, but one 
of the faireft of heaven's angels!" others, " Behold a 
miracle ! Blefled be the Lord in that he hath wrought fo 
marvelloufly ! " I fay, her demeanour was fo full of grace 
and dignity and every charm, that, looking upon her, men 
felt within them an emotion of inexpreflible fweetnefs 
and elevation ; nor was it poflible for any one to look 
upon her without a figh firft rifing from his breaft. Thefe 
and even more marvellous effects were wrought by her 
in a manner at once moft ftrange and admirable j much 
meditating whereon, and wifhing to refume my verfes in 
her praife, I determined to exprefs in words fomething of 
her wondrous and excelling influence, in order that not 
only thofe who had beheld her in the flefh, but others 
might know what of her fair perfections might be con- 
veyed in words. Thereupon I compofed this fonnet : — 

So kind, fo full of gentle courtefy, 

My lady's greeting is, that every tongue 
To filence thrills, and eyes, that on her hung 
With mute obfervance, dare no more to fee. 

Onwards (he moves, clothed with humility, 
Hearing, with look benign, her praifes rung ; 
A being, feeming fent from heaven among 
Mankind, to mow what heavenly wonders be. 

Within her looks fuch ftores of pleafaunce lie, 
That through the gazer's eye creeps to his heart 
A fweetnefs muft be tailed to be known : 


And from his lips, with love in every tone, 
A fpirit foft and gentle feems to part, 
Which to the foul keeps ever faying — " Die ! " 

This fonnet is fo eafy to underjiand by what has been 
already faid, that no divifion is requifite^ and therefore., 
leaving it, I fay : — 

This lady of my heart came to be fo highly efteemed, 
that not only was fhe honoured and praifed, but many were 
honoured and praifed for her fake. Wherefore, feeing this, 
and being anxious to make it known to thofe who did not fee 
it, I determined to write fomething in which it mould be 
exprefled. The following fonnet was the refult, which 
tells how her influence extended itfelf over other ladies : — 

He fully fees her matchlefs worth, who fees 
That lady mine, with other ladies round. 
They whom fhe choofes for her mates are bound 
To render thanks to Heaven with grateful knees. 

Such virtue rare her beauty hath, in footh, 
No envy ftirs in other ladies' breaft, 
But in its light they walk befide her, drefs'd 
In gentlenefs, and love, and noble truth. 

Her looks whate'er they light on feem to blefs, 
Nor her alone make lovely to the view, 
But all her peers through her have honour too : 

In all fhe does fuch courtly gentlenefs, 
None can recall her worth without a figh 
Of love, opprefs'd with that fweet memory. 

This fonnet has three parts. In the firjl I ft ate among 
what perfons this lady appeared moft admirable ; in the fecond 
how fweet it was to be in her company ; in the third I fpeak 


of the influence /he exerted upon others. The fecond begins 
at — " They whom fhe choofes for her mates." The third 
at — " Such virtue rare." This lajl part has three divifions. 
In the jirji I Jlate her influence on ladies, in their own 
perfons ; in the fecond her influence upon them through others ; 
in the third I /late her influence not only on ladies, but on 
every one, and how wondrous was that influence, not merely 
whilft in her pre/ence, but from the ?nere remembrance of her. 
The /econd begins at — " Her looks, whate'er they look on." 
The third at— " In all fhe does." 

Reflecting one day upon what I had faid of my lady in 
the two preceding fonnets, and perceiving that I had not 
fpoken of what was then at work within me, it feemed to 
me as though I had fpoken of her imperfectly ; and 
therefore I refolved to write fomething in which I mould 
exprefs how I feemed to be difpofed towards her influence, 
and how it adted upon me. And not thinking that this 
could be told within the limits of a fonnet, I began this 
canzone : — 

So long has Love enchain'd me as his thrall, 

And fo accuftorrfd to his empiry, 

That, tyrannous as at firft he feem'd to me, 

Now on my heart his rigours fweetly fall. 

So, when by him my better parts are all 

Thrown down, and feems as every power would flee, 

Even then fo great my foul's fweet ecftafy, 

My trembling cheek grows pale as funeral pall. 

Then Love within me gathers might apace, 

Making my fighs in words proclaim their woe, 

And calling on my lady forth they go, 


Entreating her to take me to her grace : 
Thus ftill it chances, when (he looks on me, 
And none might deem how humbled then I be. 

§)uom.odo fedet Jola civitas plena populo ! faSfa eft quaji 
vidua gentium.* I was engaged upon this canzone, and 
had juft completed the above ftanza, when the Lord of 
Juftice Summoned t hat moft: gen tlebeing to triumph under 
the ban ner of Mary , the bleffed Queen of Heaven, whole - 
name was ever had in deepeft reverence by the lips of that 
fainted Beatrice. And albeit it might not be unpleafing 
to difcourfe here of her departure from amongft us, it is 
not my intention to do fo for three reafons. The firft is, 
that this is not pertinent to my prefent purpofe, as may 
be feen from the introduction to this little book j the 
fecond is, that even although it were pertinent to my 
purpofe, my pen would be inadequate to treat of it, as 
were befitting ; the third is, that, granting that neither of 
thefe considerations exifted, the fubjecT: is no fitting one for 
me, feeing that I could not treat of it without becoming 
my own panegyrift, (a thing moft culpable in him that 
does it,) and therefore I leave this fubjedf. to fome other 
chronicler. Neverthelefs, as on feveral occafions in the 
preceding pages the number nine has occupied a place, 
and apparently not without Significance ; and as in her 
deceafe that number would feem to have filled an impor- 

* How doth the city fit folitary that was full of people ! fhe is be- 
come as a widow, ihe that was great among the nations. — Lamenta- 
tions, chap. i. v. 1. 


tant place, it may be meet to fay fomething here, which 
feems to be not irrelevant to the matter in hand. Firft, then, 
I will remark how it had a place in her deceafe, and then 
I will indicate a reafon why this number was fo propitious 
to her. I fay, then, that according to the computation ufed 
in Italy, her moft noble foul quitted its manfion here in the 
firft hour of the ninth day of the month ; and, according to 
the computation ufed in Syria, fhe died in the ninth month 
of the year, for there the firft month is Thefchrin, which 
is our October. And, according to our computation, fhe 
died in that year of our calendar, that year of our Lord, to 
wit, in which the perfect number was nine nines completed, 
within the century in which fhe was born into the world, 
fhe being a Chriftian of the thirteenth century. Why this 
number was fo propitious to her may poflibly be explained 
thus. According to Ptolemy, and the Chriftian creed, the 
heavens that move are nine, and, according to the com- 
monly received belief among aftrologers, thefe heavens exert 
a concurrent influence on mundane things, each accord- 
ing to its peculiar function ; fo this number was propitious 
to her, by indicating that at the time of her begetting all 
the nine moving heavens were in the moft perfecT: conjunc- 
tion. This is one reafon ; but, when the matter is fcanned 
more clofely, and in conformity with infallible truth, this 
number was her very felf. I fpeak by way of fimilitude, 
meaning thus : — The number three is the root of nine, 
becaufe without any other number, multiplied by itfelf, it 
makes nine, as we fee clearly that three times three make 
nine. If, then, three is by itfelf the author of nine, and 


the author of miracles is in Himfelf three, Father, Son, and 
Holy Ghoft, which are Three and One, this lady was ac- 
companied by the number nine, in order to (how that fhe 
was a Nine, in other words a miracle, whofe only root is 
the adorable Trinity. A perfon more fubtly-minded than 
myfelf might peradventure fee fome more fubtle reafon, but 
this is what I fee in the matter, and it is what pleafes me beft. 
After that moft gentle lady had quitted this our fphere, 
the aforefaid city was left utterly widowed and defpoiled 
of all its worth ; wherefore I, all drowned in tears within 
this defolate city, wrote to the princes of the earth touching 
its condition, taking for my exordium thofe words of 
Jeremiah : — Quomodo fedet fola civitas ! And I mention 
this, that no marvel may be felt at my having cited thefe 
words already, as a kind of prelude to the new matter 
which follows anon. And fhould any rebuke me for not 
writing here the words which follow thofe above cited, my 
excufe is, that from the firft my purpofe was to write only 
in the vulgar tongue ; and as the words which fo follow 
are all Latin, it would be contrary to my purpofe to have 
tranfcribed them ; and I know that my friend, to whom I 
write this, is of the like mind, to wit, that I fhould write to 
him exclufively in the vulgar tongue. When my eyes had for 
fome term been bathed in tears, and were fo weary that I 
could no longer give vent to my grief in weeping, I thought 
to find an outlet for it in verfe ; and therefore refolved to 
indite a canzone, in which I mould tearfully difcourfe of 
her, exceffive grief for whom had become the deftroyer 
of my life ; and I began with the lines, — " The eyes that 


mourn. Sec." In order that this canzone may after its clofe 
retain an afpect more widowed and forlorn, I will explain 
its divifions before writing it down ; and this courfe I will 
purfue henceforward to the end. 

This forry little canzone, then, has three parts. The firjl 
is introduclory ; in the fecond I /peak of her ; in the third I 
addrefs the canzone in a plaintive Jlrain. The fecond begins 
at — " Yes, Beatrice is gone to yonder heaven." The third 
at — "My plaintive fong." The firjl part has three divifions. 
In the firjl of thefe I Jlate why I am moved to fpeak ; in the 
fecond I Jlate to whom I wi/h to fpeak ; in the third I Jlate 
of whom I wi/h to fpeak. The fecond begins at — " And 
now, remembering." The third at — u And, weeping, 
ftill of her." When further on I fay, — u Yes, Beatrice is 
gone," I fpeak of her, and in this part make two divifions ; 
in the firjl of which I exprefs the caufe why Jhe was taken 
azvay ; and, next, how her departure is bewailed by others, 
and this part commences at — " Forth from the lovely 
habitation." This part has three divifions. In the firjl I 
fpeak of thofe who do not mourn for her ; in the fecond of 
thofe who do ; and in the third I fpeak of my own condition. 
The fecond begins at — " But fadnefs him aflails." The 
third at — " With deepeft anguifh." When further on I 
fay, — " My plaintive fong," / addrefs my fong, pointing out 
the ladies to whom it is to go, and with them to remain. 

The eyes, that mourn in pity of the heart, 
Such pain have fuffer'd from their ceafelefs tears, 
That they are utterly fubdued at laft ; 
And would I ftill the ever-gnawing fmart, 


That down to death is leading all my years, 
Forth in wild fobs muft I my mifery caft ; 
And now remembering how, in days gone paft, 
To you, fweet ladies, gladly I addrefs'd 
My fpeech of that dear lady mine, while fhe 
Yet lived, I'll urge my plea 
To none fave gentle heart in ladies' breaft, — 
And, weeping, ftill of her my fong mail be, 
Who fuddenly to heaven hath ta'en her flight, 
And left Love with me here, a mournful wight. 

Yes, Beatrice is gone to yonder heaven, 

To realms where angels dwell and are in peace ; 

You, ladies, hath fhe left with them to ftay. 

She was not hence, like other mortals, riven 

By chill, or calenture, or fuch difeafe, 

But for her mighty worth alone was borne away ; 

For her meek nature fhed fo bright a ray, 

It beam'd to heaven, and with a light fo bleft, 

As woke amaze in the Eternal Sire, 

And kindled fweet defire 

To call a foul fo lovely to His reft. 

Then made He it from earth to Him afpire, 

Deeming this life of care and forrowing 

Unworthy of fo fair and pure a thing. 

Forth from the lovely habitation, where 
Supreme in grace it dwelt, her foul is gone, 
And in a worthy place fhines ftarry-bright. 
He, who can fpeak of her, nor weep, doth bear 
Within his breaft a worthlefs heart of ftone, 
Where no benignant influence e'er can light. 
The grovelling heart could never gain fuch height, 
As to imagine aught of her, and fo 
It ne'er is moved by the defire to weep. 


But fadnefs him affails, and yearning deep 

In fighs and burning tears to vent his woe, 

And o'er his foul a black defpair doth creep, 

Who hath, yea even in thought, at any time 

Seen what me was, and how we loft her in her prime. 

With deepeft anguifh is my bofom rent, 

When rufhes to my mind the thought of her, 
Who in my heart doth hold the chiefeft place, 
And ofttime, when my thoughts on death are bent, 
A wifh fo fweet doth then within me ftir, 
That death's pale hue mounts up into my face ; 
And, wrapt in fancy thus, fuch pain apace 
Doth o'er each nerve and trembling fibre run, 
As breaks the dream, that makes my forrow lefs ; 
And fuch my fore diftrefs, 
That all for fhame my fellow men I fhun ; 
Then, weeping lonely in my wretchednefs, 
I call on Beatrice, " Oh, thou art dead!" 
And, calling fo on her, am comforted. 

Such tears and fighs and wailing and difmay 
Break from my heavy heart, when none is near, 
As none might hear, nor be with forrow wrung j 
And what my life has been fince that fad day, 
When my dear lady fought a brighter fphere, 
May never be exprefs'd by mortal tongue. 
This, ladies, you to whom I oft have fung, 
What now I am, I cannot fitly fpeak. 
So wafted in my mifery I be, 
My whole heart ftruck from out me utterly, 
That every man who fees my deathlike cheek, 
Seems as he faid, " I will not aught with thee !" 
But what I am my lady doth regard, 
And ftill from her I hope for my reward ! 


My plaintive fong, take now thy mournful way, 
And find the dames and damofels, to whom 
Thy fillers, joyful-gay, 

Were wont to bear the light of funny gladnefs, 
And thou, diftrefsful daughter of my fadnefs, 
Go thou and dwell with them in cheerlefs gloom ! 

After this canzone was compofed there came to me 
one, who, according to the degrees of friendfhip, was my 
friend next in order after my firft, — one connected by the 
neareft ties of blood with that glorious being. After fome 
converfation, he befought me to write for him fomething 
regarding a lady who was dead, and he fo diffembled his 
words that he feemed to fpeak of another lady, who had 
died a fhort time before. Nathelefs, I, perceiving that 
it was that bleffed faint, who alone was in his mind, pro- 
mifed to do what he had requefted. Mufing thereafter 
upon this theme, I refolved to write a fonnet, in which 
I fliould deplore my own condition, and, giving it to my 
friend, it mould thus feem as though I had compofed it 
with reference to him. Then I wrote — " Come, oh ye 
gentle hearts, &c." 

This fonnet has two parts. In the firji I call on the 
liege fubjeSis of Love to give ear to me ; in thefecond I difcourje 
of my own mifer able flat e. The fecond begins at — " Sighs, 
which from my heart's, &c." 

Come, oh ye gentle hearts, that hear my cry, 
And Men to the fighs, for pity's fake, 
Which from my heart's fore defolation break, 
Sighs, but for which I muft with anguifh die ! 


For oftentimes mine eyes rebel, when I, 

Wearied with mourning for my lady fo, 

Long for a ftream of blefsed tears to flow, 

And eafe the griefs that in my bofom lie. 
Oft will you hear my prayer fent up to her, 

That noble lady mine, who to a fphere 

Deferving of her worth hath turn'd away, 
Blent with difpraifes of this life's vile ftir, 

Breathed by a forrowing foul, that lingers here, 

Abandoned of that which was its ftay. 

After I had written this fonnet, refle&ing who it was 
to whom I meant to give it, as if it had been compofed 
for him, it ftruck me that it was a poor and barren tribute 
to one fo clofely allied to that glorious being, and, there- 
fore, before giving it to him I compofed two ftanzas of a 
canzone, one truly having reference to him, and the other 
to myfelf, although by a carelefs obferver both might 
probably be thought to apply to the fame perfon. But 
whoever obferves them narrowly will fee that two different 
perfons fpeak ; inafmuch as the one ftyles her, " My Lady" 
and the other does not. This canzone I gave him along 
with the foregoing fonnet, telling him I had compofed 
them with reference to himfelf alone. 

This canzone begins— " Alas, whenever I j" and has two 
parts. In the one, the firjl Jlanza, to wit, this dear friend 
of mine , who was fo clofely allied to her., pours forth his lamen- 
tation ; whiljl I make my lament in the fecond Jlanza, be- 
ginning — " Mingled with all my fobs." And thus it is 
apparent that in this canzone two perfons make lament', one 
mourning like a brother, the other like a liege lover. 


Alas, whenever I recall the thought, 
That never more I may- 
Behold the lady whom I fo lament, 
Then in my heart of hearts fuch grief is wrought, 
That, by my paffion rent, 
I cry — " Oh, why, my foul, no longer ftay f V 
For lo, the pangs which thou (halt bear alway, 
In this vile world, to thee fo full of woes, 
Fill me with fears, and fadden all my breath ! 
Then do I call on Death 
To lap me in his foft and fweet repofe, 
And fay, " Oh, come to me ! " with love fo deep, 
That I, when others die, with envy weep. 

Mingled with all my fobs a wailing dim 
Is heard, that day and night 
Calls evermore on Death, with piteous fwell. 
My every hope and wifli is turn'd to him, 
Since my fweet lady fell, 

Crufti'd in her prime by his remorfelefs might : 
Becaufe her gracious beauty, from our fight 
Tranfported far, on high is beaming now 
With fpiritual radiance, fo divine, 
That all the heaven doth fhine 
With love's own light, to which the angels bow, 
Wondering, with their calm eyes profound and clear, 
To fee fuch gentle grace fprung from our mortal fphere. 

On the day which completed the year wherein this lady 
became a denizen of the life everlafting, I was fitting in a 
certain place, and, as my memory wandered back to her, 
I fketched an angel on my tablets ; and as I drew, turning 
round, I faw befide me fome gentlemen, to whom I was 
bound to fhow refpe£t, looking on at what I was doing ; 


and, as I was afterwards told, they had been there for 
fome time before I was aware of them. When I faw 
them, I arofe, and, faluting them, faid : — " Another was 
with me even now, and therefore was I mufing." And 
when they took their leave, I refumed my tafk of fketching 
figures of angels ; and, while thus engaged, the thought 
occurred to me that I would write fome verfes, as a kind 
of anniverfary memorial of her, addreffing them to the 
gentlemen who had juft left me. Upon this I wrote the 
following fonnet, beginning — u Into my lonely thought" 
which has two beginnings, in reference to both of which, 
therefore, I will divide it. 

Taking the firjl beginning, this fonnet has three parts. 
In the firjl IJlate that this lady was in my thoughts ; in the 
fecond I Jlate how Love wrought within me in confequence ; 
in the third I /peak of the ejfetls of Love. The fecond begins 
at — " Love felt her gentle prefence." The third at — 
" Forth from my heart." This part has two divifions. 
In the one IJlate that all my fighs had a voice as they iffued 
forth ; in the other I Jhow how fome gave utterance to words 
different from what were fpoken by the others. The fecond 
begins at — " But they which came." The fame divifion 
applies, if the other beginning be taken, except that in the 
firjl part I mention the time when this lady came into my 
mind, which I do not mention in the other. 

First Beginning. 

Into my lonely thought that noble dame 
Had come, who for her matchlefs excellence 


Was by the Moft High Lord tranfported hence 
To where in heaven dwells Mary, blefsed name ! 

Second Beginning. 

Into my lonely thought that noble dame, 

Whom Love bewails, had enter'd in the hour, 
When you, my friends, attracted by his power, 
To fee the talk that did employ me, came. 

Love felt her gentle prefence in my brain, 

And ftraight in my diftracled heart he woke : 

" Go forth, go forth \" Thus to my fighs he fpoke, 

And they went forth, a lamentable train. 

Forth from my heart with founds of wail they roll'd, 
Such founds as ofttimes with their difmal clofe 
Bring tears of anguifh into thefe fad eyes. 

But they which came with marpeft pang were thofe 
Which faid, " Oh, intellect of noble mould, 
A year to-day it is fince thou didft feek the ikies ! " 

Some time afterwards, happening to be in a certain fpot 
which reminded me of times paft, I fell into a reverie, 
and fo fad were my thoughts, that they gave to my afpe<Sl 
an appearance of terrible diftrefs. Wherefore, being 
confcious how woe-begone I looked, I lifted my eyes to 
fee if I was obferved, and beheld at a window a noble lady, 
young and of furpafiing beauty, whofe eyes were bent 
upon me with an expreffion of fuch profound companion, 
that the very quinteflence of pity feemed to be concen- 
trated in her ; whereupon, forafmuch as the wretched, when 
they fee how others grieve for them, are themfelves more 
readily moved to tears, as though in pity for themfelves, 
fo I ftraightway felt my eyes fill with tears. On this, 


not to let my abje£t ftate be feen, I went out of this lady's 
fight ; and afterwards I faid within myfelf, " It cannot be 
but this companionate lady mould have a loving and moft 
noble nature." And thereupon I refolved to write a 
fonnet, in which I mould fpeak to her, and in which 
mould be comprifed all that I have juft mentioned j and 
as its import is fufficiently clear, I will not fubdivide it. 

Lady, thefe eyes of mine have feen of late 
What depth of pity gather'd on thy cheek, 
Marking the troubled mien, and eyes that fpeak 
The anguifh which is evermore my mate. 

Then well I knew thy thoughts were of my fate, 
And of the cloud that darkens all my days, 
And fo mine eyes I did not dare to raife, 
As fearing they might mow my vile eftate. 

And in my heart thy look did fo prevail, 
That in mine eyes I felt the rifing tears, 
And from thy prefence tore myfelf away. 

Then in my foul I faid, with trembling fears, 
" Sure with this lady dwells that Love to-day, 
Which fends me mourning forth with fuch fad wail !" 

It fo happened that whenever I faw this lady her face 
was full of pity, and pale, as if with love j fo that I was 
conftantly reminded of that moft noble lady of my foul, 
who was always of that hue. And often, often, when 
unable to weep or find a vent for my forrow, I went to 
fee this companionate lady, who merely by her looks 
feemed to be able to draw tears from my eyes. Thus a 
frefh defire awoke within me to write fome lines addrefled 
to her; and I compofed this fonnet beginning — "Never 


was Pity's femblance ;" which is intelligible from the 
foregoing narrative without any fubdivifion. 

Never was Pity's femblance, or Love's hue, 

So wondroufly in face of lady mown, 

That tenderly gave ear to forrow's moan, 

Or look'd on woful eyes, as mows in you. 
What time my forrow-ftricken cheek you view 

Grow pale before you, to my mind you bring 

So fad remembrance of a certain thing, 

I ftrongly fear my heart will rend in two. 
I cannot choofe but that my wafted eyes 

Should gaze on you again, and yet again, 

So longingly they yearn to vent their grief : 
And you increafe their wifh for fuch relief, 

So that they pine away with longings vain, 

For in your prefence not a tear will rife. 

The fight of this lady had fuch an effecT: upon me, that 
my eyes began to delight too much in beholding her, 
wherefore was I ofttime inwardly difquieted, and regarded 
myfelf with fomewhat of contempt ; and ever and anon 
I curfed the ficklenefs of my eyes, faying to them in my 
thought, " You were wont aforetime to bring tears to 
the eyes of all who witnelTed your woful ftate ; yet now 
it feems as though you would forget your mifery becaufe 
of that lady who looks at you, yet does fo only in forrow- 
ful remembrance of that glorious being, for whom you are 
wont to mourn. But do your uttermoft, I care not j for 
ever and anon will recall I her to your remembrance, 
accurfed eyes, which never, fave in death, mould have with- 
held the tribute of your tears !" And when I had thus 


inwardly addrefled my eyes, ftraightway I was aflailed by 
fighs, profoundly deep and full of anguifh j and in order 
that this conflict within me might not remain unknown, 
fave to the wretched man who felt it, I refolved to com- 
pofe a fonnet which mould exprefs my pitiable ftate, and 
I wrote that beginning — " The bitter tears." 

This fonnet has two parts. In the firji I fpeak to my eyes, 
in the fame Jirain in which my heart had fpoken within me ; 
in the fecond I remove an obfcurity, by Jhowing who it is that 
fpeaks, and this part begins at — " So fpeaks my heart." 
Many more fubdivijions might be made, but thefe are rendered 
unnecejfary by the explanations already given. 

The bitter tears which you, poor eyes, have wept, 
For now this many a day, as you have feen, 
Have tears of pity drawn from others' eyne. 
Mefeems as now in you the memory flept, 

Or fain would fleep, of her, — if I deceived, 
So traitor like, the faith to which I fwore, 
And ceafed not to difturb you evermore, 
Remembering you of her, for whom you grieved. 

Fickle ye are, and vain, which works me care, 
And gives me fuch alarm, I greatly dread 
The earneft gazing of a lady's eyes. 

" Except in death, and its oblivion, ne'er 
Should you forget your lady, who is dead ! " 
So fpeaks my heart to me, and then it fighs. 

The fight of this lady fo entirely changed me, that my 
thoughts often dwelt upon her too fondly ; and I mufed 
about her thus : — " This is a lady, noble, lovely, young, 
and fage, and it may be that Love has thrown her in my 


way as the means of reftoring tranquillity to my life." 
And frequently my thoughts took a more affectionate 
turn, fo much fo, that my heart lent its fan£Uon to the 
dictates of my underftanding. But when my heart had 
done fo, reafon, on further thoughts, refumed its maftery 
within me, and I faid within myfelf, " Alas ! what thought 
is this that feeks to comfort me in fo vile a fort, and 
fcarcely leaves me power to think of anything befide ? " 
Then came another thought, and faid, " Thou, who through 
Love haft been in fuch heavy tribulation, why keepeft 
thou not aloof from what is fo fraught with bitternefs ? 
Thou feeft it is an infpiration which kindles within thee 
the defires of Love, and emanates from nothing lefs fair than 
the eyes of that lady who has teftified fuch pity for thy 
ftate." After I had in this wife frequently difputed 
within myfelf, I felt a defire to write fomething upon the 
fubjedr. ; and as in the foregoing conflict the thoughts which 
pleaded for that lady had been victorious, I deemed it 
meet to addrefs my lines to her, and I compofed this fon- 
net, which begins — " Lady, a gentle thought ;" and I ufed 
the epithet " gentle," as having reference to that gentle 
lady, otherwife its ufe would be moft villanous. 

/ divide this fonnet into two parts, to correfpond with the 
divijion of my thoughts into two. The one part I call " heart," 
that is, defire; the other "foul" that is, reafon', and I fet 
forth how the one fpeaks to the other. And that it is right 
to call defire " heart" and reafon "foul" is plain enough to thofe 
to whom I care it fhould be fo. True it is, that in the preceding 
fonnet I fet the heart in oppofition to the eyes, which feems to 


run counter to what I fay in the prefent one ; and, therefore, 
1 fay that in that fonnet, alfo, by heart I mean defer e, feeing 
that I longed more to dwell upon the remembrance of that 
mojl gentle lady mine than to fee this other, albeit I was not alto- 
gether indifferent to her either ; whence it follows that what 
is fpoken in the one cafe is not inconfiflent with what was 
fpoken in the other. This fonnet has three parts. In the 
firji I fct out by telling this lady hoiv all my defires incline 
towards her ; in the fecond I fay how my foul, that is, my 
reafon, fpeaks to my heart, that is, my defire ; in the third I 
give its anfwer. The fecond begins at — " Thus with my 
heart." The third at — " The heart replies." 

Lady, a gentle thought, which fpeaks of you, 
Oft fteals into the chambers of my brain, 
And reafons there of love in fo fweet ftrain, 
That with its faith it doth my heart imbue. 

Thus with my heart my foul doth parley : — "Who 
Is this that brings fuch comfort to our pain, 
And fuch afcendancy doth o'er us gain, 
She leaves no thought that brings not her to view ?" 

The heart replies: — " Oh foul that woful art, 
This is from Love a fpirit newly fent, 
That unto me his lord's high mandate fhows. 

Yea, and his life, and all the power he owes, 

Spring from the eyes of her — that gentle heart — 
Whofe bofom with the pangs of ours was rent." 

To battle with this adverfary, put forward by reafon, a 
ftrong imagination rofe up within me one day about the 
hour of nine. Methought I faw yonder glorious Beatrice 
arrayed in the fame crimfon robe in which fhe had originally 


appeared to my eyes, and fhe feemed as youthful as on 
the day I faw her firft. Thereupon I fell to mufing about 
her, and traverfing in remembrance ftep by ftep all the ftory 
of the paft, my heart began to repent itfelf with anguifh 
of the defire wherewith it had for fome days fo bafely 
fuffered itfelf to be pofleffed, in defiance of the conftancy 
of reafon ; and having fhaken off this unworthy defire, all 
my thoughts reverted to their molt gentle Beatrice. And 
from that time forth, I proteft, my heart, whenfoever I 
thought of her, was fo overcome with fhame, that many a 
time it broke forth in fighs ; which, as they rofe up, 
feemed, as it were, to proclaim what was the meditation 
of my heart, — that moft gentle lady's name, to wit, — and 
how fhe had departed from amongft us. And it often 
happened, that all my thoughts were fo furcharged with 
grief, that I became infenfible to them, yea, even uncon- 
fcious where I was. Through this rekindling of my fighs, 
the defire to weep, which had for awhile been appealed, 
broke forth anew within me with fuch force, that my eyes 
feemed, as it were, two things that had no wifh but only 
to weep ; and it often happened that from long-continued 
weeping they were encircled with a purple hue, fuch as 
ufually is feen in thofe who fuffer extreme pain. Thus 
is it manifeft that they received the fitting guerdon of 
their ficklenefs, and to fuch purpofe that, thenceforward, 
look upon them who might with intent to lure them into 
like inconftancy, they were blind to the attraction. Where- 
fore, being anxious that my unworthy defire and vain 
temptation mould be feen to be fo completely put to rout, 


that no doubt mould be created on that head by the verfes 
which I had previoufly written, I determined to compofe 
a fonnet, in which I mould comprife the fubftance of what 
has been told above, and thereupon I wrote — "Alas ! alas ! 
through force of 'many fighs." 

I wrote, u Alas ! " to Jhow the Jhame I felt in that my 
eyes had fo _flrayed_ from their alle giance. This fonnet I do 
not divide, as its meaning is fufficiently clear. 

Alas ! alas ! through force of many fighs, 

That of fad thoughts within the heart are bred, 
Mine eyes are vanquifiVd, and of power are lhorn, 
To meet the gaze of one they elfe might prize. 

But two defires they fhow, fuch are they grown, 
To weep and image grief; and lb they mourn, 
That Love, beholding all the tears they Ihed, 
Oft wreathes them with the martyr's purple crown. 

The fighs I heave, and thoughts fo woful drear, 
To fuch keen anguifh grow within my breaft, 
That Love, through fore affliction, fwoons away ; 

For on thefe fighs, and all that woful cheer, 
Is my dear lady's fweeteft name imprefs'd, 
And of her death a long and piteous lay ! 

After this time of trouble, and in the days when much 
people were on their way to view that blefled femblance 
of Himfelf, which Jefus Chrift left us as an exemplar of 
that moft comely countenance of His, whereon my lady 
now looks in glory, it befell that fundry pilgrims paiTed 
along a ftreet which runs nearly through the centre of 
the city wherein that moft gentle lady was born, lived, and 
died ; and methought their demeanour, as they moved 


along fhowed them to be wrapt in meditation. Mufing 
upon their afpe£t., therefore, I faid within myfelf, " Thefe 
pilgrims come belike from fome far country, and have not, 
I ween, heard that lady fpoken of, nay, are wholly ignorant 
about her. Yea, doubtlefs their thoughts are of other 
matters, peradventure of their diftant friends, whom we 
know not." Then faid I within myfelf, " Sure I am that 
were they of fome neighbouring diftricl they would fhow 
fome figns of difquietude in pafling through the midft of 
this forrow-ftricken city. Could I," I continued, " have 
fpeech with them for awhile, of a furety I would make 
them weep before they quitted this city, for the words 
which I would fpeak would draw tears from all who hear 
them." So when they had pafled out of fight, I deter- 
mined to write a fonnet in which I fhould give utterance 
to what I had faid within myfelf; and, in order to give it a 
more plaintive air, I refolved to fpeak as though I were 
addreffing them, and I compofed the fonnet beginning — • 
" Tell me, ye pilgrims." 

I ufed the word " pilgrims " in its broadejl fenfe, for it 
may be underjlood in two ways, one broad and the other narrotv. 
Broad, inafmuch as whofoever is out of his own country is a 
pilgrim ; narrow, when it is meant to apply exclufively to one 
who is going to or returning from the Jhrine of St. fames. 
At the fame time it is to be obferved that thofe who are bound 
on the fervice of the Mofl High are appropriately diflin- 
guijhed in three ways. Thofe areflyled " Palmers " who go 
beyond the feas, whence they often bring back the palm with 
them ; thofe are Jiyled " Pilgrims " who go to the Jhrine of 


Galicia, for the burial-place of Saint "James was further 
from his native country than that of any other apojlle ; and 
thofe are Jlyled " Romers" who go to Rome, whither thofe 
were bound whom in this fonnet I call Pilgrims. / do not 
divide this fonnet, its meaning being fufficiently obvious. 

Tell me, ye pilgrims, who fo thoughtful go, 
Mufing, mayhap, on what is far away, 
Come ye from climes fo far (as your array 
And look of foreign nurture feem to fhow,) 

That from your eyes no tears of pity flow, 
As ye along our mourning city flray, 
Serene of countenance and free, as they 
Who of her deep difafter nothing know. 

But would ye flay and liften to her plaint, 
Full furely in this heart of fighs I feel, 
That all in tears you would purfue your courfe. 

Oh, fhe hath loft her Beatrice, — her faint ! 
And what of her her co-mates can reveal, 
Muft drown with tears even ftrangers' hearts perforce. 

After this I received a meflage from two ladies, request- 
ing me to fend thefe verfes of mine to them ; and I, con- 
sidering of what noble quality thefe ladies were, refolved 
to do fo, and at the fame time to compofe fomething new 
to fend along with the others, thereby the more honourably 
to fulfil their requeft. Thereupon I wrote a fonnet, de- 
fcriptive of my ftate, and fcnt it to them together with that 
which has juft been given, and with that other beginning — 
u Come, oh ye gentle hearts, Sic." The fonnet which I 
compofed on this occafion begins — " Beyond the fphere." 

This fonnet has five parts. In the firjl I Jlate whither 


my thought is going, naming it by the name of one of its ejfefls; 
in the fecond IJiate why it mounts upwards, and who makes 
it do fo ; in the third I Jiate what it fees, namely, a lady ' 
receiving adoration — and then I call it a pilgrim fpirit, 

forafmuch as it afcends fpiritually, and like a pilgrim who is 
away from his own country, and there abides; in the fourth I 

Jiate how it fees her as Jhe truly is, that is to Jay, in a Jiate 
of exaltation which furpaJJes my comprehenfion, in other words, 
that my thought rifes to a conception of her Jiate, which my 
under/landing cannot grajp ; forafmuch as our under/landing 
occupies the fame place in regard to thofe blefjed Jpirits, as our 

feeble eye in regard to the fun, as the philofopher remarks in 
his fecond book of his Metaphyfics ; in the fifth I Jay that 
although I cannot fee whither my thought tranfports me, that 
is, to her wondrous perfection, fill this much I do underfand, 
that my thought, whatever it is, is of my lady, for I con- 
tinually find her name in my thought ; and at the clofe of 
this fifth part I Jay, " Dear ladies," to indicate that it is 
to ladies I addrefs myjelf. The fecond part begins — " Wing'd 
by a new intelligence." The third — " When it hath 
gain'd." The fourth — " It fees her in fuch wife." The 

fifth — " Yet of that lady fweet." It were pojfible to make 

fill finer fubdivifons, and thereby to bring out the meaning 
more fully, but it may pafs with thofe which I have made 
above, and therefore I do not concern myfelfto divide it further. 

Beyond the fphere that wideft rolls above, 
The figh that iflues from my heart is borne, 
Wing'd by a new intelligence, which love 
Infufeth ; love with mighty anguim torn. 


When it hath gain'd the haven of its eafe, 
It fees a lady whom the faints adore, 
So radiant, that the pilgrim fpirit fees 
With awe the fplendours that around her pour. 

It fees her in fuch wife, that when it feeks 
To tell the tale, at my fad heart's demand, 
So deep its words, I underftand them not ! 

Yet of that lady fweet I know it fpeaks, 
For oft it brings my Beatrice to thought, 
And this, dear ladies, well I underftand. 

After I had written this fonnet there appeared to me a 
wonderful vifion, in which I faw things that made me 
determine to write no more of this dear faint, until I mould 
be able to write of her more worthily; and, of* a furety, 
fhe knows that I ftudy to attain unto this with all my 
powers. So, if it fhall pleafe Him, by whom all things 
live, to fpare my life for fome years longer, I hope to fay 
that of her which never yet hath been faid of any lady ; 
and then, may it pleafe Him, who is the Father of all 
good, to fufter my foul to fee the glory of its miftrefs, that 
is, of this fainted Beatrice, who now, abiding in glory, 
looketh upon the face of Him qui eft per omnia ftzcula 



" In that part of the book of my memory," p. i. 

HIS metaphor was a favourite one with Dante, and 
is characterise of the intenfity with which he both 
obferved and felt. So in the canzone beginning — 
" E' m' increfce di me fi malamente" he alludes 
again to the " libro della mente" (fee infra, p. ioo), and in the 
Inferno, 11. 8, he fays : — *' O mente, che fcrivefti cio, cb' to vidi." 

" Oh mind, that all I faw has kept 
Safe in a written record." — Cary. 

Chaucer, in his Temple of Fame, adopts the fame ftrain : — 

" Oh thought, that writall that I met, 
And in the treforie it fet 
Of my braine, now fhall men fee, 
If any virtue in thee be." 

The metaphor is a familiar one in our literature ; thus in 
Hamlet, — " The book and volume of my brain;" and in Henry 
VI. Part i. A£t ii. Sc. 4, Plantagenet fays : — 

" For your partaker Poole, and you yourfelf, 
I'll note you in my book of memory, 
To fcourge you for this apprehension." 


" Nine times, Jin ce my birth, had the Heaven of light" p. I. 

The aftronomy of Dante's age, following the Ptolemaic fyftem, 
affumed nine heavens circling within and over each other, in the 
centre of which the earth refted immoveable; thefe, again, were 
encircled by the empyrean, which was immoveable, and formed 
the tenth and outermoft heaven. The heaven of the fun, the 
fourth of the heavens, which move in a circle round the earth, 
is that here alluded to. Buffalmacco, in one of the frefcoes of the 
Campo Santo at Pifa, has reprefented the univerfe as compofed of 
nine circles, according to the fame theory, and fupported by the 
hands of Chrift, whofe head is fee n rifing above the ninth circle. 

" Who by many was called Beatrice, and to them was known 
only by that name," p. I. 

The text of this paffage is manifeftly corrupt, and has puzzled 
the ingenuity of all the commentators. Fraticelli reads, — "fu chi- 
amata da molti Beatrice, i quali non fapeano che Ji chiamare y" 
out of which it is not poffible to extract any fatisfadlory meaning. 
PofTibly Dante may have meant to fay that fhe was unconfcioufly 
called Beatrice (that is, the Beatifier) by many, who did not know 
why they fo called her. A flight alteration in the text would 
give this meaning, and it would not be out of harmony with 
Dante's modes of thought. 

" The twelfth part of a degree" p. I. 

The Harry heavens, or the eighth of the nine heavens above 
mentioned, moved, according to the aftronomy of Dante's time, 
from evening to morning one degree in a hundred years. Dante 


was born, in 1265, and, the twelfth part of a degree being eight 
years and four months, he met with Beatrice for the firft time in 
1274, and, if Boccaccio's narrative be corredl, on the firft of 
May in that year. 

" Her apparel was of a moft noble tinclure, afubdued and 
becoming crimjon" p. 1. 

" Vestita di nobilijjimo colore umile ed onefto JanguignoT Ac- 
cording to Villani, the Florentine ladies of this period confidered 
themfelves to be full drefledwithaclofegownofcoarfe fcarlet cloth, 
fattened at the waift by a girdle of leather, and a fur mantle, the 
hood of which covered their heads; while the women of low 
degree wore a drefs of the fame ihape, made of coarfe green cam- 
bray. Dante feems, however, to imply by nobilijjimo colore 
fomething more than the faft that her drefs was that of a young 
lady of good family. 

"At that moment the Jpirit of life? p. 1. 

The following note by Karl Forfter [Das Neue Leben, aus dem 
Itali'dnijchen uberjetzt und erl'dutert, Leipzig, 1841, p. 109) 
is valuable in explanation of this and other paflages in which 
Dante employs the language of the fcholaftic philofophy : — " The 
philofophy of that period aflumed, according to the precedent of 
Ariftotle, the faculties of the foul to be threefold, and alfo three 
kinds of powers as lying at the bafes of thefe, a natural or 
vegetative faculty (potentia vegetativd), a faculty of fenfation 
(potentia animalis), and a faculty of life (potentia vitalis), each of 
which has its appointed feat and appropriate organs in the body. 
In connection with this ftands the dodlrine, which had pafled 
from the Greek phyficians and Arabian philofophers into the 


pfychology of the time, of the Spirits, delicate filmy beings, 
to each of which its appointed feat in the body is afligned, in 
order therefrom to fet into motion and activity the faculty which 
appertains to it. Of thefe fpirits there are three forts: (i.) the 
natural fpirit {fpiritus naturalis), which has its feat in the liver, 
and fhows itfelf more efpecially active in the organs of digeftion 
and evacuation; (2.) the animal or fenfitive fpirit {fpiritus 
animalis), born in the heart, but to which the brain has been 
afligned as its abiding place, from which it radiates, like light, 
through the nerves, and by exciting them ftimulates the faculties 
of fenfe and motion; (3.) the fpirit of life {fpiritus vitalis), be- 
gotten from the pureft heart's blood, which conveys the glow of 
life through the other members, and gives them all the capabilities 
of action, which emanate from vital heat. The arteries ferve to 
tranfmit this fpirit to all the members. Hear how Hugo of St. 
Victor exprefTes himfelf to the fame efFeft, in reference to the 
faculties of the foul : — ' The natural power prepares within the 
liver the blood and other juices, which fpread by means of the 
veins throughout the whole body. The vital power dwells within 
the heart, and whilft, in order to mitigate its heat, it inhales and 
exhales the air, it communicates life and wellbeing to the whole 
body; for, by means of the arteries, it drives the blood, vivified 
by the pure air, through the whole body, and by the movements 
of the blood phyficians recognize the regular or deficient action 
{temperantiam atque intemperantiam) of the heart. The animal 
power has its feat in the brain, from which it imparts life to the 
four fenfes, and ftimulates the organs of fpeech into expreflion as 
well as the limbs to motion. There are, in faft, three brain- 
chambers ; a front chamber, from which all fenfation, a back 
one, from which all motion, and a third and intermediate one, 
from which the whole reafoning faculties emanate.' — Hugo a St. 


Viftore de Anima, 1. ii. c. 13. Hugo was no ftranger either 
to the doftrine of the fpirits. What fhape thefe ideas took among 
the later ichoolmen, particularly with Thomas Aquinas, and 
through him in the mind of Dante, we fee by the 16-18 cantos 
of the Purgatorio. The fame views prevailed, with greater or lefs 
modifications, down to the fixteenth century." 

In the fifth ftanza of the canzone quoted below (p. 101), Dante 
fpeaks of his firft meeting with Beatrice in almoft the fame lan- 
guage as in the text. 

" That faying of the poet Homer" p. 2. 

Dante was ignorant of Greek, and quotes fome Italian tranflation. 
A paffage in Petrarch's Treatife, De Remediis utriufque Fortune, 
in which a fimilar citation is made, led Witte to difcover the 
original in Homer — 11. 24, 259 : 

ovhk ewKEi 
avdpog ye dvt]rov iraiQ kfifisvat, dXXa deolo. 

" When fo many days had paffed away as made up the exaSi 
1 meafure of nine years" p. 3 . 

Dante had obvioufly no perfonal communication with Bea- 
trice, although, as he fays, he had feen her frequently, during the 
nine years which elapfed after the time of their firft meeting until 
now, when he was eighteen, and fhe feventeen years and four 
months old. Their fecond meeting feems to have taken place on 
the firft of May, 1283. To this fecond meeting Dante feems 
to allude in the fixth ftanza of the canzone cited below (p. 101). 



" To this Jonnet 1 received replies from many" p. 5. 

Three of thefe have been preferved — by Guido Cavalcanti, by 
Cino da Piftoia, and by Dante da Majano. That by Guido 
Cavalcanti, which is the fonnet referred to by Dante in the text, 
is as follows : — 

Vedejl'i al mio parere ogni valore. 

Thou haft, I ween, beheld whate'er of bright, 
Or great, or good a mortal vifion may, 
If thou haft in thee felt his fovereign might, 
Who in the world of honour beareth fway : 

All 'noyance dies, where beams his gracious fight, 
Minds, fan&ified by pity, him obey, 
And on our fleep he pours fuch deep delight, 
That, all unfelt, he bears our hearts away ! 

Your heart he bore away, for well he knew 

That death full foon would call thy lady hence, 
And, fearing this, he fed her with that heart. 

When all in tears he feem'd, and thus withdrew, 
Sweet was thy fleep, but foon from thee to part, 
For onward ftrode its foe, to fcare it thence. 

Cino da Piftoia offered an entirely different folution of the 
problem in the following lines : — 

Naturalmente chere ogni amadore. 

By nature every lover yearns to lay 

Bare to his ladye-love his heart of flame : 
And by the vifion, which before thee came, 
This truth to thee Love purpofed to difplay, 


When in that humble and fubmiffive way 

He fed thy lady with thy burning heart, 

Who from all pain and forrow far apart, 

In mantle wrapt, had ilumber'd many a day. 
Joyous of cheer was Love, as he came on, 

To give thee what thy heart fo figh'd to gain, 

And blend two fpirits in one mutual glow ; 
And, knowing well Love's keen and ceafelefs pain, 

Which he within thy lady's heart had fown, 

He wept for pity, as he turn'd to go. 

Dante da Majano, who in thefe days would have been a worthy 
member of the "faft" fchool of writers, inftead of taking Dante's 
paffion au ferieux, banters him in the following coarfe and 
clumfy lines, in which, after the fafhion of his clafs, fheer brutality 
is prefented in lieu of humour: — 

Di clo chejlato fei dimandatore. 

After much turning of the problem over, 
Which you've propounded, briefly I reply, 
Though in fuch matters little verfed am I, 
And what your vifion means I thus uncover. 

Have at its myftery, then, mod doleful lover ! 
If you be hale in mind, in body flout, 
With copious purge go wafh your inwards out, 
And fcare the vapours that about you hover, 

Making you babble fuch fantaftic fluff; 
But if you're really ill, th«n with your wit 
Something, depend on't, 's very much the matter. 

This is my written judgment : — -Jap. verb. fuff. : 
Nor fhall I alter it, not I, one whit, 
Till Dr. Drench has diagnofed your water. 


Dante, while he informs us that Guido Cavalcanti's interpre- 
tation of his dream was not the true one, adds, " ma ora e mani- 
fejlo alii piu femplici." Whatever may have been the cafe when 
he wrote thefe words, no modern CEdipus has been found to 
explain its meaning. It is a pity Dante did not record it, as in 
doing fb he might have thrown fome light on the relation in 
which he flood to Beatrice. There appears to be a fpecial fignifi- 
cance in the lady's fleep, in its being broken by Love, and her 
eating the burning heart in fear, — 

" a" ejlo cor ardendo 
Lei paventofa umilmente pafcea," — 

to which neither Guido Cavalcanti nor Cino da Piftoia advert. 
Some covert allufion may be intended to the fa6r., that Beatrice 
had been married or contracted to Meffer Simone dei Bardi, 
before fhe knew of Dante's paffion, or gave any countenance to it. 

" He whom I call the for emojl of my friends" p. 5. 

This was " the young father of Italian fong," Guido Cavalcanti, 
to whom allufion is made in the Vita Nuova on feveral occafions, 
and at whofe requeft, and for whom, in facl, it feems to have been 
written (fee p. $5'/ u P ra )' Cavalcanti was confiderably older 
than Dante, and had already eftablifhed a high reputation both as 
a philofopher and poet. Dino Compagni fpeaks of him as " a 
noble, courteous and daring youth, but haughty and retired, and 
given to ftudy." Boccaccio, who makes him the hero of one of 
his tales, defcribes him thus : — " Befides being one of the beft 
logicians in the world, and an excellent natural philofopher, he was 
alfo very witty, had fine manners, and fpoke much. Everything 
he did was done better than any one elfe could do it, and in a 


mode befitting a gentleman." Dante thought highly of his poetry. 
This is apparent both from his frequent commendation of him in 
the Treatife De Vulgari Eloquio, and from the allufion to him in 
the Purgatorio, Canto xi., which Dante puts into the mouth of 
their friend Oderigi : — 

" Credette Cimabue nella pintura 

Tener lo campo : ed or a ha Giotta il grido, 

Si che la f am a di colui of cur a. 
Cos} ha tolto P uno all' altro Guido 

La gloria della lingua : e forfe e nato, 

Chi P uno e P altro caccera di nido." 

" Cimabue thought 

To lord it over painting's field ; but now 

The cry is Giotto's, and his name eclipfed. 

Thus hath one Guido from the other fnatch'd 

The letter'd prize ; and he, perhaps, is born 

Who fhall drive either from their neft." — Cary. 

The other Guido is Guido Guinicelli, a Bolognefe poet, who 

died in 1287, and who was regarded by Dante as his mailer in 

the art of writing love poetry. — Purg. xxvi. 96 : 

" Tal mi fee' is, ma non a tan to infurgs, 
Quando V ud? nomar fe Jleffo il padre — 
Mio, e dagli altri miei miglior, che mat 
Rime d' amore ufar dolci e leggiadre." 

" Such my joy, 
Save that I more reprefs'd it, when I heard 
From his own lips the name of him pronounced, 


Who was a father to me, and to thofe 
My betters, who have ever ufed the fweet 
And pleafant rhymes of love." — Carv. 

Cary gives fpecimens, with tranflations, of both the Guidos in 
the notes to the Purgatorio, Canto xi. The poetry of Guido di 
Cavalcanti feems to have formed a model for much of the minor 
poetry of Dante. Like his, it is often pedantic and obfcure ; but 
flames of a noble fervour conftantly break through it. The fol- 
lowing tranflation may afford fome idea of his more impaflioned 
ftyle :— 

Chi e quejla che vlen ch' ognl uom la mira? 

What's (he, whole coming rivets all men's eyes ; 
Who makes the air to tremble with delight, 
And thrills fo every heart, that no man might 
Find tongue for words, but vents his foul in fighs? 

Ah God ! the ecftafy her gaze to 'bide ! 

Say to her, Love, how great I ne'er may tell ! 
Yet with her fuch humility doth dwell, 
The gentleft maid feems fcornful by her fide. 

Ne'er may the charms that compafs her be told, 
For all belt virtues unto her incline, 
And Beauty fhows her for her goddefs-queen : 

Nor can our fouls attain fuch heights ferene, 
Nor are they ftirr'd by yearnings fo divine, 
That we can half her peerlefs worth behold. 

" One day it chanced that this mojl gentle t>eing" p. 6. 

Throughout the Vita Nuova Dante appliesoneepithet to Beatrice, 
— fhe is either quefta gentilijjima, or quefta gentilijjima donna : for 


which " moft gentle being," or " moil gentle lady," as gentle was 
ufed in our early literature, when " the grand old name of gentle- 
man" had ftill a fignificance, would be a fair equivalent. Our 
language unfortunately has no other to exprefs that combination of 
dignity with fweetnefs, of ftrength with tendernefs, of felf-refpedl: 
with refpedl: for others, which makes courtefy inftinftive, and lifts 
thofe with whom it comes in conta£t into a higher and purer moral 
atmofphere. There is a lingering fweetnefs in the Italian which 
harmonizes admirably with the image which Dante's account of 
Beatrice calls up of grace, fweetnefs, and dignity, coupled with a 
certain delicacy of organization. Our word " lady " is the 
neareft approach to what is implied in the words " gentilijjima 
donna;" but it no longer fuggefts to the general reader thofe 
qualities which alone it ought to be referved to exprefs. 

" Thenfuddenly it occurred to me to make of this noble lady a 
fere en for the truth" p. 7. 

It has been argued, from the facl of Dante having reforted to 
this artifice to conceal the object of his love, that Beatrice was 
married at the time. This, however, by no means follows. 
It is of the nature of all deep and reverential paflion to cherifh 
its own fecret, and Dante was juft the man to carry this inftinft 
to excefs ; moreover it is not conceivable that Dante, in whofe 
love reverence had fo large a part, would have yearned for Beatrice 
with fuch paflionate defire, as we fee from the earlier poems of the 
Vita Nuova that he manifeftly did, had fhe been at that time the 
wife of another. It is ftrange certainly that he fhould through fuch a 
device have been able to keep his own counfel, as he fays, for 
months and years. But however blind others may have been to 
his attachment, Beatrice apparently was not, for he himfelf flates 


(p. \$,fupra), when fpeaking of her indignation at him for com- 
promifing, as fhe had been led to believe, the reputation of the 
fecond lady, whom he had ufed as a fcreen, that his fecret " had 
through long ufage in fome meafure become known to her," 
{conofciuto per lei alquanto h tuo fegreto per lunga confuetudine.) 
Such fecret attachments are quickly divined by their objects ; and 
the very indignation which Beatrice is ftated to have felt, and which 
led her to withhold her falutation from her lover, feems to indi- 
cate that Dante's fecret worlhip had not been ungrateful to her. 
Had fhe been married at this time, to have given it even fuch 
diftant encouragement as fhe appears to have done would have 
been the very wantonnefs of cruelty. 

But we get, from fome collateral circumftances, an indication 
that at this time Beatrice was not married. Thus Dante (p. 7, 
fupra) mentions that during the time when this lady was the 
fcreen of his love he compofed a ferventefe, in which her name 
was recorded along with thofe of fifty-nine of the moft beautiful 
ladies of Florence. To this ferventefe an allufion occurs in the 
following fonnet by Dante to his friend Cavalcanti, where Beatrice 
is mentioned in a way which moft affuredly fhe never would 
have been had fhe been married at the time. Inftead of Shelley's 
well-known verfion of this fonnet, we borrow, with fome flight 
alterations, one which appeared in an article on Tufcan Proverbs, 
in Frafer's Magazine for January, 1857 : — 

Guido^ vorrei che tu e Lapo ed io. 

Guido, I wifh that Lapo, thou, and I 

Were borne away by fome fweet wizardrie, 
And fet on board a barque that o'er the fea 
In any wind fhould at our bidding fly ! 

Then no mifchance, nor any churlifh weather 


Should hinder as we clove our joyous way, 
But longings not to part would grow and flay, 
Through always living in one mind together. 

And might the gracious wizard bring us there 
Thy Vanna, Bice, and our Lapo's queen, 
Whofe number on my roll is twice fifteen, 

Then, ever rapt in love-difcourfes rare, 
Each of the damofels would feel content, 
As we Ihould, I am very confident. 

Vanna was Giovanna, the lady-love of Guido Cavalcanti, and 
a friend of Beatrice, whom we find aflbciated with her in a fuble- 
quent part of the Vita Nuova (pp. 45, 46, Juprd). The Lapo 
here alluded to was Lapo Gianni, whofe miftrefs's name, accord- 
ing to Fraticelli, was Monna Lagia, and whofe name had, by the 
neceffities of the rhyme, flood the thirtieth on the roll of ladies' 
names in the ferventefe, as, no doubt from the fame caufe, Bea- 
trice's had flood the ninth. Had any obftacle fo fubftantial as a 
hufband flood between Dante and the accomplifhment of the wifh 
exprefled in this fonnet, one cannot think it would have been 

It has been contended that the love which Dante began with 
feigning for the ladies who afted as his fcreens, he ended with 
feeling (fee, for example, Dante Alighieri, Sein Leben und Seine 
Werke, von Hartwig Floto, Stuttgart, 1858, p. 27). This 
conclufion feems, however, to be without warrant.; it is directly 
at variance with what Dante himfelf fays ; it is inconfiftent with 
his appeal to Beatrice in the canzone (p. 1 6, fupra) beginning — 
" My Jong, I'd have you find out Love;'''' and, what is ftill more 
conclufive to my mind, it is difcountenanced by the pafTages in the 
Purgatorio, Canto xxx., cited in the Introduction (pp. xxxviii-xl), 


where Beatrice rebukes Dante for his falling away after her 
death, and, indeed, when well advanced in life, but allows him 
the praife of a perfectly pure and conftant devotion during the 
period of his " New Life." 

"A few days after the death of the lady in quefiion I had occajion 
to quit the aforefaid city" p. 1 1 . 

It has been conjeftured, by the commentators, that Dante alludes 
here to the time when he went to Bologna to profecute his 
ftudies there. The following fonnet appears to belong to the 
fame period ; it fcarcely reaches the ftrain of profound grief which 
marks the poems written after Beatrice's death, with which fome 
of the commentators would clafs it : — 

Se 7 bel afpetto non mi fo/fe tolto. 

If I from her dear prefence were not torn, 
Whom to behold uncealingly I pine, 
For whofe fair vifage, hidden from mine eyne, 
Here far away with tears and fighs I mourn, 

Then would the grief, by which I'm rack'd and worn 
With pangs fo cruel, that this life of mine 
I live like one that doth to death decline, 
And of all hope is utterly forlorn, 

So lightly prefs me, it could fcarce annoy : 

But my heart throbs with anguifh day and night, 
Since I may look upon her face no more, 

And fo bereft am I of every joy, 

That things which give to other men delight, 
To me a burden are, and fret me fore. 


The following canzone alfo feems to refer to the fame period 
of abfence from Florence, and the vicinity of his miftrefs : — 

La difpietata mente, cbe pur mlra. 

The fad felf- torturing mind, that backward turns 
My gaze upon a time gone paft recal, 
On one hand fiege againft my heart doth wage ; 
While the fond paffion of my foul, that yearns 
To that fair land, which I have left, with all 
The force of Love doth on the other rage. 
Nor do I feel its ftrength fo great, as may 
'Gainft fuch aflault its footing long defend, 
Gentle Madonna, if unhelp'd by you. 
Wherefore, if not undue 
It feem, that you relief to it mould lend, 
Vouchfafe to fend your dear falute to me, 
That ftrengthen'd fo its drooping powers may be. 

The heart, dear lady, which fo loves you, deign 
To cheer in this its dire extremity, 
For fuccour it may hope from you alone. 
The generous matter never checks the rein, 
When fummon'd to his vaflal's aid ; for he 
In this fhields not his honour, but his own : 
And my heart's anguifh wilder makes my moan, 
When I reflecT: that in its very core 
You by Love's hand are limn'd, dear lady mine ; 
Wherefore mould you incline 
To comfort and to cherifh it the more, 
Since He, from whom flows all that's good and fair, 
Holds us more dear, that we His image bear. 


But fhould you bid me, oh my fweeteft hope, 
Wait yet awhile the boon I thus implore, 
Know, I can brook no further tarrying : 
My power to bear has reach'd its utmoft fcope. 
This muft you know, when nought is left me more, 
Save to my laft and deareft hope to cling ; 
For all the burdens fate on him can fling, 
Even though they prefs to death, a man fhould bear, 
Ere unto proof he put his chiefeft friend, 
Not knowing what the end ; 

And if, perchance, that friend fhould flight his prayer, 
Thing there is not that cofts fo dear, I ween, 
Or that with death is fraught fo fwift and keen. 

And furely you are fhe I love the beft, 

And who can give the deareft boon to me, 
And refts on whom my chiefeft hope withal. 
I prize not life, fave but to do your heft, 
And whatfoe'er may to your honour be 
I feek, while all things elfe my fpirit gall ; 
What others dare not give, you may ; for all 
The power of" yes" and '* no" hath Love to you 
Entrufted, and I draw my comfort thence ; 
And that fuch confidence 
I have, is to your gracious bearing due, 
For all that look on you from fuch outfide 
Muft know that pity doth within abide. 

Then fend your dear falute, withheld fo long, 
To foothe the heart that watches for it fo, 


And for it, lady, makes this plaintive call. 

But know, acrofs that heart a barrier ftrong 

Is fet, even that fame (haft, which from his bow 

Love fped the day when I became his thrall ; 

And fo admiffion is denied to all, 

Cave to Love's meffengers, who, by his will 

That keeps it clofed, the paffage can unbar ; 

Wherefore in this my war 

Its coming poffibly might work me ill. 

If it fhould come, and unattended by 

The envoys of that lord, whofe liege am I. 

Brief fhould thy journey be, my fong, and fwift, 
For well thou know'ft, how near his end mull be, 
Who fends thee forth upon this embaffy. 

" And whofo had wijbed to fee and know Love had only to look 
upon the tremor of my eyes," p. 14. 

" Rapture, trembling through my eyes, 
Reveals how much I love her." 

Hamilton of Bangour. 

" Relying implicitly on this perfon, whofe own life had been 
endangered by one of his friends" p. 20. 

In the original — " Fidandomi nella perfona, la quale un fuo amico 
all' eflremita della vita condotto avea." This paffage is full of 
difficulty. I am by no means fatisfied that the tranflation given 
above is the right one. On a careful review of this part of the 
narrative, it feems to me this was the firft time that Dante met 


Beatrice after her marriage with MefTer Simone dei Bardi. The 
fhock was unexpe&ed, and fo fevere as to have been nearly fatal 
to him. See Dante's reply to his friend's inquiry, as he led him 
away : — " I have fet my foot in that part of life to pafs beyond 
which, with purpofe to return, is impoffible ; " which is faying 
in other words that he had been condotto alP ejlremita della 
vita. Taking this view, the paffage mould be tranflated thus : — 
" Relying on this perfon, who had (unwittingly) led his friend 
to the very gates of death." 

But why, it may be faid, afTume that this was a meeting after 
Beatrice's marriage, or, if fo, that it was the firft ? It is quite true, 
Dante fays nothing which expreflly fupports either afTumption, 
and indeed he nowhere indicates in any way the fact that Bea- 
trice ever was married. But her prefence at a feftival of the 
kind here referred to is in itfelf evidence that me was married, as 
it was not the cuftom for any but married women to attend on 
brides {Cefare Balbo, Vita di Dante, Cap. in.) It has even been 
conje&ured, that the incident occurred at Beatrice's own bridal 
feaft. This, however, is clearly out of the queftion, and for 
reafons which are at once obvious. But Dante might very well have 
gone with a friend to a wedding party, where neither his friend 
nor himfelf expected Beatrice to be prefent, and loft his felf-com- 
mand on fuddenly finding himfelf face to face with her for the firft 
time after her marriage. It is only upon the fuppofition that fome 
very fpecial reafon for his emotion had arifen that we can account 
for its having gone fo far as to endanger his life. I feem to trace a 
change from this point in the character of the poems in the Vita 
Nuova, as if the lover's lingering hope had given place for a time 
to defpair. Dante's love for Beatrice was fo real, fo full of paffion, 
fo intenfely perfonal, that to have feen her wedded to another 
muft have gone near to killing him. Had fhe at any time fed 


him with hopes ? There are lines in thefe and in other poems of 
Dante's, written apparently about the lame period, which feem 
to breathe the bitternefs of a man who had fome caufe for com- 
plaint on this fcore. Or had he, with the wilful felf-deception 
of the lover, mifinterpreted as fpecial regard what was mere 
general courtely? At all events it was manifeftly long before 
Dante became reconciled to the event, which, however, he would 
appear in fome meafure to have been, when he wrote the can- 
zone, Donne, che avete intelletto d'amore (p. 28, fupra), and 
the two exquifite fonnets which immediately follow (pp. 33, 34, 
fupra). The laft of thefe we know for certain was written after 
Beatrice had been for fome time married, as Dante Hates (p. 35, 
fupra) that it was written not many days before her father's death 
(3 1 ft December, 1 289), and in her father's will, which is dated 1 5th 
January, 1287, fhe is mentioned as having been at that time the 
wife of Simone dei Bardi — Item Domina Bid filia fua et uxori 
Domini Simonis de Bardis reliquit libr. 50. adfloren. Contrafting 
thefe fonnets with thofe beginning — "All angrymurmurs die within 
my breaft," p. 23, and, " Full many a time I ponder on the drear," 
p. 25, it is not difficult to imagine the long and terrible ftruggle 
which Dante mult have gone through before he reached the fad 
ferenity of reverential homage into which his paffion has there 
become fublimated. It is to this period of fiery conflict between 
admiration and defpair that I fhould be difpofed to affign the 
following fonnets, the fomewhat wayward and querulous tone of 
which may have made Dante exclude them from the Vita Nuova, 
written when, perhaps, he knew more of the true ftate of Bea- 
trice's feelings towards himfelf during this time of anguifh ; and 
when, at all events, through her death, me had become for him 
" a thing enflded and fainted," with whofe memory all the turbu- 
lence of his earthly paffion would have feemed to jar : — 


Dagli occhi della mia donna ft muove. 

From the fair palace of my lady's eyes 

There beams a light fo noble, that, where'er 
She fhows herfelf, are (een fuch wonders rare, 
And high, as awe men into mute furprife ; 

And from their rays upon my heart doth rain 
Such fear, that I as with a palfy fttake. 
" Here will I come no more !" I fay, but make 
All my refolved vows, alas ! in vain. 

Still do I turn where I am ftill fubdued, 
Giving new courage to my fearful eyes, 
That whilom fhrank before a blaze fo great. 

I fee her, and they link, together glued, 
And the defire that led my footfteps dies ; 
Then, Love, do thou take order for my ftate. 

Io maledlco il dl cV io vidl in prima. 

Curst be the day when firft I faw the beams 
That in thofe eyes of thine, fair traitor, play ; 
Curft be the hour thou didft the fortrefs climb 
Of my lull'd heart, to Ileal my foul away ; 

Curft be the labour of my love's fond dreams, 
The burning thoughts inwoven in many a lay, 
Which I have clothed in fancy's brighteft gleams, 
To make thee famous to all after time ! 

And oh ! accurft my ftubborn memory, 

Clinging to that which flays me hour by hour, 
Thy lovely form, whence Love full oft is found 

Launching his perjuries with malicious power, 


Till all men make a mock of him and me, 

That think of fortune's wheel to ftay the giddy round. 

Iofonfi vago della bella luce. 

So charm'u am I with the bewitching light 

Of the falfe traitor-eyes that me have flain, 

That I return again and yet again, 

To meet new death, and frehh envenom'd flight ; 
And their fweet radiance dazzles fo my fight, 

That I am all bewilder'd, heart and brain, 

And leaving reafon, virtue, then am fain 

Defire alone to follow as I might. 
So fweetly wrapt in truftfulnefs ferene, 

To winning death he leads my fteps along, 

Nor breaks the dream till I am ftricken through ; 
Then deeply I lament the fcornful wrong, 

But more I grieve, alas ! that Pity's feen 

In me defrauded of her guerdon true. 

Poiche, fguardandoy 11 cor ferijle in tanto. 

Oh Love, fince, whilft I gazed, you ftruck a blow 
Right to my heart, that thrills each nerve with pain, 
In mercy grant fome balm to eafe my bane, 
And let my wearied foul fome comfort know ; 

Doll thou not fee thefe eyes that wafte away 

In tears for thofe dire pangs, which day and night 
To death are leading me, with grafp fo tight, 
Efcape I may not, ftrive howe'er I may ? 

See, lady, fee, how true the grief I bear, 


And how my voice is hollow, thin, and worn, 
With calling ftill on thee to 'bate thy fcorn : 
Yet if it be thy will, oh lady fweet, 

That I mould perifh in my heart's defpair, 
Here will I die contented at thy feet. 

To the fame period alfo may probably be afcribed the follow- 
ing canzone. The remarkable coincidence of the allufions in 
ftanzas five and fix with the circumftantial narrative in the Vita 
Nuova of the poet's firft and fecond meetings with Beatrice feems 
to make it all but certain that fhe is the objeft of this canzone. 
Undoubtedly a tone of reproachfulnefs runs through it, quite 
unlike anything in the Vita Nuova, as though fhe had led him on 
to love her, and then trifled with his paffion ; but who fhall 
anfwer for the wilfulnefs or injuftice of a man {a deeply in love 
as Dante ? It muft always be remembered that the Vita Nuova 
was compofed when his mind had run itfelf clear of all its turbid 
emotions. Doubtlefs, too, he had before her death come to a 
. full underftanding with Beatrice, and knew how innocent fhe was 
of blame towards him. He was not likely, therefore, to in- 
clude this canzone in the record of his love-ftory ; but it is not, 
therefore, the lefs interefting, as enabling us to " read between 
the lines" of the Vita Nuova, and to mark the fierce pulfations 
of the paffion which was there to affume a character fo lofty and 
almoft facred. 

E' nC increfce dl me Ji malamente. 

My grief has brought me to fuch rueful pafs, 
That my felf-pity quite 

As keenly wounds as what provokes my fighs ; 
For to my bitter coft I feel, alas ! 


That in mine own defpite 

The breath of my laft figh begins to rife 

Within the heart was pierced by thofe fair eyes, 

What time Love's hands unveil'd to me their light, 

To lure me on to direful overthrow. 

Ah me, how foft and bright, 

Ah me, how tender-fweet on me they fhone, 

When firft they ufher'd on 

The death that racks me now with many a throe, 

Saying, " We carry peace where'er we go ! " 

" Peace to your heart we'll give, and joy to you !" 
Thus many and many a day 
Unto mine eyes thofe of yon lady faid. 
But when, by prompting of her thought, they knew 
That by her tyrant fway 
My foul into captivity was led, 
Then with Love's banners far away they fled, 
Nor from that hour have I beheld them gleam 
With vi&ory elate ; 
And (o in grief fupreme 
My foul is left, where moft it hoped for eafe, 
And now nigh-dead it fees 
The heart with which it was incorporate, 
And, fick with love, mult leave its whilom mate. 

Sick, fick with love, and fad with many a tear, 
Forth from this life it wends, 
Difconfolate that Love forbids its Hay ; 
And, as it goes, fo piteous is its cheer, 
That its Creator bends 


An ear of pity to its doleful lay. 

In the heart's core it rallies, as it may, 

With what fmall fpark of life ftill lingers there, 

Till of the foul it fhall be quite forlorn, 

And wails in its defpair, 

That Love fhould it from this world's confine chafe ; 

And many a fad embrace 

It gives the fpirits, who unceafing mourn, 

That they mull be from their companion torn. 

Still fits that lady's image in my thought, 
Enthroned triumphant there, 
Where it by Love, her guide, was fet erewhile ; 
Nor recks fhe of the mifchief fhe has wrought, 
But fairer and more fair 
She grows, and ftill more joyous is her fmile ; 
Her eyes fhe lifts, that murderoufly beguile, 
And calls to that which grieves it muft be gone : 
" Hence! get thee hence for ever, caitiff vile!" 
So that beloved one, 
Still, ftill, as ever, to affail me fain : 
But lefs is now my pain, 
For now my fenfe grows duller to its throes, 
And nearer is the term of all my woes. 

The day that firft to earth this lady came, 
As in the book is writ 

Of memory, which grows fainter day by day, 
A paflion new fhot like a fever fit 
Through all my boyifh frame, 
Which left me wan and fhivering with difmay, 


And on my every nerve a curb did lay 

So fuddenly, that down to earth I fell, 

Pierced by a voice that to my heart did cleave, 

And, as that book doth tell, 

Such tremors fhook the matter fpirit's breath, 

It feem'd, full furely, death 

Had come to bear him hence ; but now, believe, 

He who was caufe of all for this doth grieve. 

When later I beheld that form and face, 
That make me fo lament, 
Ladies, to whom this flory I indite, 
The faculty that holds the nobleft place,* 
Gazing with joy intent, 
Felt its malignant ftar had rifen to fight, 
And by that gaze of wonder and delight 
It knew what wild defire had there been bred ; 
Then to its mates it mutter'd, all in tears, 
" Hither will come, inftead 
Of her of yore, that form full fair to lee, 
Which thrills me now with fears, 
And of us all fhall fovran lady be, 
Soon as her eyes aflert their empiry." 

Ladies, to you have I addrefs'd my fong, 

You, whofe young eyes with beauty's luftre fhine, 
Whofe penfive fpirits are by Love fubdued, 
That thefe poor words of mine 

* £>uella -virtu cbe ha piu nob'ilitate. The understanding or intellectual 
faculty is meant. 


May find fome grace wherever they may hie ; 
And here, before you, I 

Forgive that beauteous thing the ruthlefs mood, 
That me her vaffal hath to death purfued. 

" They are the fame, Love and the gentle heart! 
So runs the faw, which from the fage I flole," p. 33. 

The allufion here is to the canzone by Guido Guinicelli, be- 

" Al cor gentil ripara fempre amore." 

" Love finds a refuge in the gentle heart." 

A translation of the whole canzone will be found in the notes 
to The Lyrical Poems of Dante Alighieri, tranjlated by Charles 
Lyell, London, 1845, p. 125. 

" Sage" is ufed on feveral occafions by Dante as a convertible 
term for poet; as, for example, in the Convito, tr. iv. cap. 13, 
he introduces a reference to Juvenal's line, " Cantabit vacuus 
coram latrone viator" with the words " E perl dice il Savio." 

" Love hath his throne within my lady's eyes," p. 34. 

The following fonnet bears internal evidence of having reference 
to Beatrice, and was probably written about the fame time as the 
fonnet in the text : — 

Di donne to vedt una gentile fchler a. 

Last All Saints' Day it was my chance to meet 
Of damofels a bevy pafling fair, 
And one advanced as fhe their leader were, 
Who on her right hand Love befide her led. 


Lo, from her eyes a glorious light fhe fhed, 
That feem'd as 'twere a fpirit all of fire, 
And gazing unabafh'd, as fhe drew nigher, 
In her I faw an angel form complete ! 

To all might worthily fuch grace receive 

A calm fweet greeting from her eyes fhe fent, 
That fill'd with noble ardour every breaft ; 

From heaven that fovran lady, I believe, 
For our falvation here to earth was fent. 
How, then, is fhe who walks befide her bleft ! 

" Not many days after this fonnet was written, &c." p. 35. 

Folco Portinari, the father of Beatrice, died on the 31ft Dec. 

" And feeing that, according to the ufage of the aforefaid city, women 
at thefe woful feafons unite their grief with women, &c." p. 36. 

The Author of A Comment on the Divine Comedy of Dante 
Alighieri, London, Murray, 1822, in reference to the cuflom 
here alluded to, fays : — " This, I fuppofe, was once the general 
fafhion throughout Europe ; fince I have found it ftill eftablifhed 
in all its primitive rigour in Portugal, the country to which many 
ufages of our anceftors feem to have retreated for final refuge. 
This is a very dreary one ; and probably even ftill more annoying 
to thofe who are opprefted with real grief, than to thofe whom 
decency obliges to feign it. Every evening, for an entire month 
of 1 8 14, a young and handfome widow of Oporto prefided at the 
upper end of a long room, with a fingle fmall veiled lamp on a 
table before her, while downward from her arm-chair extended 


two parallel rows of feats for the company. Thefe, both on en- 
tering and retiring, made a filent bow ; nor fpoke a fyllable 
during thevifit. The ladies occupied the chairs on the right, the 
gentlemen thofe on the left. All were in deep mourning, as well 
as the fair miftrefs, who occafionally applied a handkerchief to her 
eyes ; although doubts were entertained as to her fincerity. But 
melancholy beyond defcription was another mourning fcene of 
which I was witnefs in the fame city — a mother bereft of her 
only fon. She was an Englishwoman married to a Portuguefe ; 
yet was fhe obliged to undergo that cruel ceremony, although her 
hufband had confiderately fought to avoid it, by conveying her 
immediately to the country, and remaining there above fix months. 
On the very evening following her return, carriages affembling at 
her door, fhe was neceffitated to conform to the cuftom, and have 
her forrow intruded on and anew worked up by that funeral 
pomp, for thirty fucceffive nights ; while, fuch was the mattered 
ftate of her nerves, that it was furprifing fhe did not fall a victim 
to her repeated Struggles with that frenzy of affliction, which it is 
horrible to feel, but flill more horrible to endeavour to control, 
as fhe was forced to do." Befides the fonnet in the text (p. 37), 
Dante appears to have written another upon the fame occafion, 
fcarcely lefs beautiful, and which prefents a picture even more 
vivid of Beatrice's diflrefs. 

Vol, donne, che pietofo atto mojlrate. 

Ye ladies, that fo piteous are of mien, 

What's fhe who lies in fuch abyfs of woe ? 
Can it be fhe, who of my heart is queen ? 
Oh ! do not hide the truth if this be fo ! 

So alter'd are her beauteous lineaments, 


So wafted is her form, that me, I wis, 
That heavenly paragon no more prefents, 
Who on her co-mates fhed reflex of blifs. 

If thou our lady canft not recognize, 

Who is fo funk, I do not deem it ftrange, 
Since I fcarce knew what ftill I moft adore ; 

But clofer look, and by her gracious eyes 

Thou'lt know her ; in their fweetnefs is no change : 
Already thou art ihent, then weep no more. 

In the eighth line of this fonnet Dante refers to the efFedT: 
which aflbciation with Beatrice had upon other ladies, as more 
fully defcribed in the fonnet (p. ^\,fupra) beginning, "He fully 
fees her matchlefs worth, who fees." 

" Before them that bright choir a cloudlet bears" p. 43. 

Among Dante's minor poems is found a beautiful little ballata, 
in which Beatrice feems to be apoftrophifed under the fame 
metaphor. It was probably written after the vifion recorded in 
the text. 

Deb nuvoletta, che in ombra d'dmore. 

Ah, beauteous cloudlet, that before mine eyes 

So fuddenly in Love's own femblance came, 

Have pity on the heart that feels thy blame, 

That hopes in thee, and in defiring dies ! 
Cloudlet, of form than aught of earth more fair, 

By thy difcourfe that is too fatal-fweet, 

Thou fett'ft my heart on fire ; 

Then by thy fmile thou doft my fpirit cheat 

Into forgetfulnefs of its defpair 


With hope and fond defire. 

Chide not the boldnefs which can thus afpire, 

But rather view me worn with love fo great; 

For many a maid relenting all too late 

Has felt the pangs that caufed her lover's fighs. 

" And on her face was per feci calm exprefs'd, 
Thatfeem'd as though it f aid, ' I am at reft!* 1 ' p. 43. 

Compare with this Petrarch's defcription of Laura, as fhe lay 

" Pallida no, ma piu che neve bianca s 

Parea pofar come perfona ftanca, &c." 

" Not pale, but whiter than the fnow ; fhe lay 
Like one unto her reft fatigued away. 
It feem'd as though her fpirit, ere it fled, 
Upon her fweet and gracious eyes had fhed 
A gentle Humber, a peculiar grace, — 
Death fhow'd fo lovely in her lovely face." 

" Quomodo fedet fola civitas," p. 53. 

The quotation is from Lamentations, cap. 1. v. 1 ; Dante alfo 
commences his letter to the cardinals {Ep. IX.) with the fame 
words, applying them to the condition of Rome without a Pope. 
This coincidence has not been overlooked by the allegorizers of 
the Vita Nuova. 

It might have been fuppofed, from the narrative in the text, that 
the death of Beatrice had come upon Dante unexpectedly, and 
while he was ftill meditating his plaintive appeals for her favour. 


This, however, we muft conclude not to have been the cafe, if 
we are to accept as authentic the following canzone, which is 
found among his minor poems, and which, if there be any weight 
in internal evidence, muft be afcribed to him, and muft have been 
written while her life ftill hung in the balance. Only inferior in 
power to the magnificent dirge in which Dante records her death 
(pp. 56 et feq.yfupra), it feems to be the very voice of a breaking 
heart, paflionately imploring that the blow may be averted, which 
a dreadful foreboding aflures it muft inevitably fall. 

Morte^ poicb* to non trovo a cul mi doglia. 

Oh, Death, fince no man liftens to my cries, 
Nor gives one pitying figh, when I complain, 
Where'er I go, where'er I turn mine eyes ; 
And fince all courage thou from me haft ta'en, 
And clotheft me, as in a robe, with pain, 
And on me turn'ft all (hocks of dire mifchance ; 
Since all my life within thy danger lies, 
To make it, at thy pleafure, poor or rich ; 
'Tis meet, I turn to thee my countenance, 
That as a corpfe is woeful- wan of hue. 
To thee, as one that is companionate, 
I come, oh Death, wailing that peace, of which 
Thou fpoileft me, if thou her life undo, 
Who in her keeping holds my heart and fate, 
And is of all that's good the very gate ! 

Oh, Death, how dear that peace thou'dft take from me, 
Which ftirs me now to thee to make my moan, 
I will not fpeak, for thou thyfelf canft fee ! 


Look but on thefe fad eyes, bedimm'd with tears, 
Or on the anguifh that in them is fhown, 
Or on the figns that mark me for thine own. 
Alas! if the mere turmoil of my fears 
Have dafh'd me fo, how fhall I writhe and groan, 
If quench'd I fee the light of thofe fweet eyes, 
That unto mine as lode-liars wont to be ! 
The fharpeft ftroke of fate were lefs fevere 
Than is the dread that thus in anguilh cries.* 
Even now fo keen my pangs, I greatly fear 
That I mall long, to 'fcape a heavier woe, 
To die, yet find no hand to ftrike the blow. 

Oh, Death, if thou that gentle creature flay, 

On whofe high worth, confummate and complete 
With all that's fair, our wondering fpirits gaze, 
From earth thou driveft virtue in difmay, 
Tak'ft from pure grace its manfion and retreat, 
Spoil'ft her high influence of its meed and praife, 
Blighteft her gracious beauty, that as far 

* In thefe two lines I follow the reading quoted by Witte (Anmerkungen' 
Dante Alighieris Lyrifcke Gedichte, Leipzig, 1S42, vol. 11. p. 47), on the 
authority of an old Manufcript. 

" Credo che qual fi fia, quel che piu noi, 
Sentira dolce verfo il mio lamento." 

This feems more in accordance with the reft of the ftrophe than Fraticelli's 
text : — 

" Ben veggio che '1 mio fin confenti e vuoi ; 
Sentirai dolce fotto il mio lamento." 

*' That thou wilt joy to fee me fped, is clear, 
And mufic fweet to thee will be my fighs." 

If this were fo, why does Dante appeal to Death at all, come a perjona pia ? 


All other beauty in its fheen outvies, 

As fits a creature cull'd and charged to bear 

The light of heaven to gladden mortal eyes; 

The goodly faith thou doft for ever mar 

Of that true Love, which guideth all her ways ! 

If thou, oh Death, fhalt quench her light fo rare, 

Then, then may Love through all his empire fay, 

" My brighter!: banner I have loft for aye!" 

Oh, Death, repent thee, then, of all the woe, 
That furely muft enfue if fhe fhall die, 
Woe heavier far than ever yet befel ; 
Relax the ftring upon thy bended bow, 
That it make not the murderous arrow fly, 
Which thou haft levell'd at her heart too well ! 
Oh, mercy, for God's love ! fome paufe allow ! 
Curb yet a little while the purpofe fell, 
That yearns to ftrike her down, whom with fuch rare 
Excelling graces God hath dower'd ! Ah me ! 
If thou know'ft mercy, Death, approve it now ! 
Methinks even now heaven opens, and I fee 
The angels of the Lord defcend to bear 
That fainted foul aloft, where now on high 
Her praife is fung in anthems through the fky. 

My fong, thou feeft how flender is and frail 

The thread on which hangs all my hope, and how 

Without this lady's aid I faint and fail ; 

Then hie thee with thy plain and humble tale, 

My little fong, nor linger by the way ; 

And, with the meeknefs that invefts thee, bow 


Before great Death, oh, thou, my laft-born lay ! 
So, breaking through the gates of cruelty, 
The blefsed fruit of mercy thou may'ft gain ; 
And if his purpofe fell, perchance, by thee 
Be fhaken, to our lady bear amain 
The tidings which her fpirit comfort may, 
And to the world the glorious boon recall 
Of that fair foul, which is my all-in-all. , 

We are not furprifed to be told that the mock of Beatrice's 
death nearly killed Dante. " What with weeping and anguifh," 
fays Boccaccio, " and total difregard of his perfonal appearance, 
he became like fome favage thing ; his cheeks haggard, his beard 
neglefted, and his whole afpecl: transformed from what it ufed to 
be ; a fpe&acle of mifery that moved the compaffion of ftrangers 
as well as friends." In this picture we fee Dante, like the Lady 
Conusance, bearing a fpirit unwillingly detained in its prifon-houfe 
of clay. 

" Look, who comes here ! A grave unto a foul, 
Holding the eternal fpirit 'gainft its will 
In the vile prifon of the affli&ed breath." 

" That year of our Lord in which the perfetl number was nine 
times completed, within the century in which Jhe was born into 
the world" p. 54. 

The perfect number is ten, (Decas perfeclijjimus numerus eft. 
Macrobii Comm. in Somn. Scip. 1. 1. cap. 6.) The day Beatrice 
died was, therefore, according to the indications of the text, the 
9th of Oftober, 1290, only nine months and a few days after her 
father's death. 


" After this canzone was compofed, there came to me one who, 
according to the degrees of friendjhip, was my friend next in 
order after my fir ft" p. 59. 

Floto, in his Life of Dante, fays that the perfon here alluded to 
was unqueftionably Beatrice's hufband. He does not, however, 
explain how he gets over Dante's own ftatement that he was " con- 
nected by the neareft ties of blood" {diftretto di fanguinita) with 
Beatrice. Surely this can point only to a brother. 

" / lifted my eyes to fee if I was obferved, and beheld at a window 
a noble lady" p. 63. 

As Beatrice has been explained away into a mere ideal being, it 
was only natural that this lady mould have fhared a fimilar fortune. 
The critics who have fallen into this drain of allegorifing have 
neither read Dante nor human nature. What can be more natural, 
what, at the fame time, more profoundly fad, than the ftory of this 
" donna confolatrice," as here told by Dante ? Who has not in 
fome fuch wife been, at one time or another, reminded how faint, 
how evanefcent are our deepeft loves, our wildeft griefs ? Dante 
recurs to the fubjedT: in his Convito, Tratt. ii. cap. 2, giving, in 
his myftical way, the very date at which he firft encountered the 
lady in queftion. 

'* The ftar of Venus," he fays, " had twice revolved within 
that orbit, which caufes it to appear at two different times, as 
the morning and evening ftar, after the departure of that fainted 
Beatrice, who now dwells in heaven with the angels, and on 
earth within my foul, when that lady, of whom I made mention 
in the clofe of the Vita Nuova, firft appeared to my eyes, attended 


by Love, and took up a place within my mind. And, as it has 
been explained by me in the aforefaid little book, it befel, rather 
through her noblenefs than through my choice, that I was inclined 
to become her lover ; for fhe fhowed herfelf fo deeply fmitten with 
companion for my widowed life, that the fpirits of my eyes 
became moil amicably difpofed towards her, and I yielded with- 
out refinance to the agreeable influence of her perfon. But inafmuch 
as love does not fpring up fuddenly, and wax, and reach per- 
fection, but demands a certain time withal and nourifhment by 
thinking, efpecially where adverfe thoughts already exift to impede 
its influence, it follows that, before this new love could be per- 
fected, there fhould needs be much conflict between the thoughts 
which fed, and thofe which refilled it, and which, on behalf of 
that glorious Beatrice, ftill held the citadel of my mind !" 

It is quite true that in the pafTage immediately to be cited from 
the fame treatife, Dante fays that it was philofophy, and no 
creature of flefh and blood that wooed him out of the depths of 
his affli&ion ; and that, in accordance with the normal working 
of his mind, which inftin&ively gave palpable form and definite 
outline to all his conceptions, he pictured his comforter in 
the fimilitude of a woman. Thofe, however, who are familiar 
with Dante's modes of thinking and feeling will fee no incom- 
patibility between the two ftatements. The two proceffes were 
poffibly going on at the fame time within him; the lady alluded 
to in the text infenfibly Healing into " his ftudy of imagination," 
and into a heart that in its very defolation muft have yearned for 
fympathy, while philofophy was drawing his mind away from 
the monotonous and miferable reveries of grief. The firfl confo- 
lation he tells us, in unmiftakable terms, that he renounced; to 
the fecond, that of " divine philofophy," he fays, with equal clear- 
nefs in the following pafTage, he clung, and found it full of healing. 


" I fay, that when I loft the chief joy of my foul I fell into fuch 
an abyfs of grief, that no confolation availed to cheer me. Never- 
thelefs, after a time, my mind, which ftruggled to recover its 
health, refolved (fince neither myfelf nor others could bring me 
comfort) to have recourfe to the mode of confolation which had 
been adopted by others in their defpair. So I fet myfelf to read 
that book by Boethius, which is but little known, in which, when 
wretched and in prifon, he had worked out his confolation. And 
hearing, moreover, that Tullius had written another book, in 
which, while difcourfing of friendfhip, he had lighted on words 
wherewith he confoled Lselius, a man of the higheft worth, 
for the death of his friend Scipio, I fet myfelf to read that alfo. And 
albeit at firft I found it hard to fathom their meaning, at laft I 
penetrated into it as far as what ikill in grammar I had, and fome 
little of my native intelligence enabled me to go ; by means of 
which latter I had already defcried many things, as in a dream, 
as may be feen in the Vita Nuova. And as commonly happens 
when the man who goes out to feek for lilver ftumbles upon gold, 
which, for fome hidden reafon, not, mayhap, without the divine 
command, is thrown in his way ; fo I, in my fearch for confolation, 
found not only a remedy for my tears, but words of authors, and 
of fciences and books to boot ; the consideration whereof led me 
to the conviftion that philofophy, who was the miftrefs of thefe 
authors, of thefe fciences, and of thefe books, muft be a fovereign 
thing. , And I pictured her to my imagination in the fimilitude 
of a lady ; and I could not imagine her under any other afpedt 
than one of pitying fympathy, wherefore I contemplated her fo 
eagerly, and with fo intenfe a feeling of reality, that I could fcarce 
withdraw my gaze from her. And thenceforth I began to repair 
where fhe was truly to be feen, that is, in the fchools of the 
churchmen, and at the difputations of the fchoolmen ; fo that in 



a little time, fome thirty months or fo, I began to feel all her 
charms (o ftrongly, that love for her put to rout and deftroyed all 
other thoughts." — Convito, Tratt. n. xiii. p. 160. 

Taking the view above expreffed of the paffage in the text, 
I do not agree with the opinion, advanced by fome critics, that the 
lady who thus ftole for a time into Dante's affections was Gemma 
Donati, whom he afterwards married. I do not think any allu- 
fion to her would have been in harmony with the purpofe of the 
Vita Nuova ; his regard for her, and her relation to him, were 
things that ran in lines which never croffed or interwove them- 
felves with his fpiritual affiance to Beatrice. 

We know nothing concerning Dante's marriage beyond the 
fa£l, that, during the few years his adverfe fortunes permitted him 
to remain with Gemma Donati, fhe bore him fix, if not feven, 
children, one of them, the youngeft, a Beatrice, whom Boccaccio 
faw as a nun at Ravenna. And yet, becaufe fhe did not live with 
him after his banifhment from Florence, it has been affumed that 
their union was ill-afforted ! But who, that confiders Dante's 
circumftances, — driven about as he was from place to place, de- 
pendant now upon this prince, now upon that, and at times 
without the bare means of fubfiftence, — will not find in thefe fads 
enough to account for their feparation ? She had her home in 
Florence, where her kinfmen were in the afcendant ; and there 
fhe was able to bring up their numerous family upon the wreck 
which fhe had faved from her hufband's eftate. How much 
better this than to have increafed his troubles by following him 
with her children into exile ! The hope of being able to return 
to Florence probably never died within the poet's breafl; and 
knowing the depth of love and tendernefs that were in his nature, 
are we to afTume that the woman who gave herfelf to him, in the 
full knowledge that fhe was not the bride of his imagination, was 


not regarded by him with the efteem which her devotion was 
calculated to infpire ? A marriage of reciprocal love it certainly 
was not, in the firft inftance ; but Dante had a chivalrous tender- 
nefs of heart, and could not be infenfible to the affection of a 
generous and devoted woman. There is not, moreover, one 
particle of evidence that the fame generofity and affection which 
originally attracted Gemma Donati towards him were not con- 
tinued to the laft. If evidence were wanted how thoroughly they 
underftood each other, it is given in the fact of their youngeft 
child receiving the name of the ever-worfhipped Beatrice. Surely 
we may read in this her intelligent and generous appreciation of 
the feeling which fhe knew well burned in her hufband's heart 
for her to whom his earlieft love was given, and who was to the 
laft the mufe of his genius. 

That Dante, during his years of feparation, was feduced by the 
attractions of at leaft one other woman, Gentucca of Lucca, and 
perhaps another, is apparently certain ; but that he was, as 
Boccaccio fays, both in youth and mature age given to wantonnefs, 
{Tra cotanta virtu, tra cotanta fcienzia, trovo amplijjimo luogo la 
lujfuria, e non folamente tie* giovani atini ma ancor ne' maturi,) 
may be difcarded from our belief, with the many other unfounded 
anecdotes which that pleafant, but too credulous, chronicler has 
admitted into his biography. Dante was too little tolerant even of 
ficklenefs of fancy to be the flave of his fenfes. See how he 
rebukes his friend Cino di Piftoja for fuch weaknefs in the follow- 
ing fonnet : — 

Io mi credea del tutto ejfer partita. 

Friend Cino, I believed your rhymes and I 
Had fairly fhaken hands to meet no more ; 
Since it were meet, my bark, now far from fhore, 


Plough'd other feas, beneath another Iky. 
But, as a gudgeon caught by any fly, 

Frefh charms, I hear, you with each moon adore ; 

So to the meafures that they loved of yore, 

I will this once my wearied fingers ply. 
He that, like you, is fighing, firing ftill, 

Letting, now here, now there, his fancy ftray, 

Him Cupid with his fhafts but flightly grafes: 
If your heart bends to every woman's will, 

For God's fake, prefently correct it, pray, 

So may your a<5ts accord with your fine phrafes. 

Selvaggia dei Vergiolefi, Cino's miftrefs, to whom much of his 
poetry is addrefled, died young. His fbnnet on vifiting her 
tomb is full of feeling : — 

Iofu' in ful alto e in ful beato monte. 

Up to that high and blefled peak I went, 

There kifs'd the facred ftone on bended knee, 
And on the rock I fell, ah, woe is me ! 
Where that beloved head was lowly bent. 

There was the fount of every virtue pent, 
That heavy day when death fo ruthleflly 
Smote down the lady of my heart, ah me ! 
In whom with beauty truth and grace were blent. 

Then unto Love in my defpair I faid, 

" Oh, my fweet God, do thou with death prevail, 
To take me where with her my heart doth lie !" 

But as my lord was deaf unto my cry, 

I turn'd and call'd " Selvaggia !" as I fled 
Along the mountains, with a cry of wail. 


" After this time of trouble, and in the days when much people 
were on their way to view that blejfed femblance of Himfelf," 
p. 70. 

The hiftorian Villani mentions that at the time of the jubilee in 
Rome, in 1300, the handkerchief of Saint Veronica was exhibited 
in St. Peter's Church, " for the confolation of Chriftian Pilgrims, 
every Friday and faint's day," and that a great multitude, men 
and women, flocked to Rome, from far and near, for the purpofe of 
feeing it. It has been conjectured that Dante alludes to this 
circumftance in the text, and that we may therefore aflign to 1300 
the completion of the Vita Nuova. This feems in every way pro- 
bable. It is quite clear, from the language in which it concludes, 
that Dante had made fome progrefs with the compofition of the 
Divina Commedia, the period of which is placed by him in that 
year. In all likelihood, too, Dante modified fome of the poems 
in the Vita Nuova, to make them harmonize with the conception 
of Beatrice as embodied in his great poem ; fee, in particular, the 
fecond and third ftanzas of the canzone beginning, " Ladies, who 
in Love's lore are deeply read," (p. 2g,fupra,) which can fcarcely 
be fuppofed to have been originally written in the form in 
which we now fee them. Like Goethe's autobiography, the 
Vita Nuova is Dichtung und Wahrheit, effential fact fhown in 
the transfiguring light of memory and imagination, a narrative of 
events recorded when time had fhown how much of their import 
was tranfitory, how much enduring. Regarding this treatife, 
which he obvioufly did, as a prelude to the Divina Commedia, 
Dante had no hesitation in ignoring mere queftions of time, or in 
adapting to the feeling then dominant within him portions of the 
poems to which Beatrice, while yet on earth, had given the motive. 


As no unfit conclufion to thefe notes, I append a tranflation of 
a poem by Uhland, in which he has, with his ufual grace and 
tendernefs, embodied a fummary of the theme to which this 
volume is devoted. 


Was it from a gate of Florence, 
Or from heaven's own portal fair, 

Yon blithe throng at morning iflued, 
In the fparkling fpringtide air ? 

Children fair as meekeyed angels, 
Garlands in their locks entwined, 

Down into the flowery valley, 
Singing, dancing, gaily wind. 

'Neath a laurel flood young Dante, 
Thrilling to the heart to fee, 

In the faireft of thofe damfels, 
Her who fhould his angel be. 

Ruftling in the fpring's light breezes, 
Stirr'd not every leaf above ? 

Dante's young foul, did it thrill not 
To the mattering touch of love? 

Yes ! the ftream of fong for ever 
Fill'd his bofom from that day j 

Love, young love, infpired each meafure, 
Love and his reflftlefs fway. 


When again he faw that maiden, 

Blooming in her beauty's fpring, 
His poetic might had ripen'd 

Into {lately bloifoming. 

Comes from forth the gate of Florence 

Once again a thronging train, 
Slowly now and full of fadnefs, 

To a dull funereal ftrain. 

'Neath yon inky pall, inwoven 

With a fnow-white crofs, they bear, 

In her prime too early gather'd, 
Beatrice, the young, the fair. 

In his chamber lone fat Dante — 

Shades of evening fill'd the place — 
Heard afar the deathbell booming, 

Heard and cover'd up his face. 

To the foreft gloom he wander'd, 

Where its fhadows thickeft fell ; 
From that hour his meafures founded 

Like the diftant palling bell. 

But in his worft defolation, 

When in moody grief he ftray'd, 
Came to him a blefled fpirit 

From his own departed maid. 

One that by the hand did guide him 
Through the fierceft fires of bale, 


Where his earthly pangs grew filent, 
Seeing damned fpirits quail. 

On his murky path advancing, 
Soon the glad light met his eyes ; 

And his love was there to greet him 
At the gate of Paradife. 

• High and higher ftill they mounted 
Through the glories of the fky, 
She the fun of funs intently 
Viewing with undazzled eye. 

He his gaze ftill fideways turning 
To his loved companion's face, 

Which reflected back the radiance 
Of that ever-glorious place. 

All that ftory he hath woven 

In a lay of heavenly pride, 
Lafting as the fears by lightning 

Graven upon the mountain's fide. 

Yes ! Full worthy to be honour'd 
'Mongft all bards as The Divine, 

Dante, who his earthly paffion 
Did to heavenly love refine. 



1 '- 'M;-.'- 


Duke University Libraries 

DO 1 480892 W